Do you need help setting up or marketing your food tour business? Please don’t hesitate to contact me with your issues and concerns – I’d love to help you grow your business! Whether you need help starting your website, optimizing it for search engines, creating content, or generating new leads, I’m here to help!
Over the years food tours have become a popular activity for tourists and foodies visiting somewhere new.
Many of you are wondering how to start a food tour business and whether it’s possible to make money from one.
Food tours are superior to walking tours in that they offer a valuable insight into local culture while providing a unique and memorable gastronomic experience.
Instead of visiting local tourist sights, food tours bring guests to restaurants, cafes, and other small eateries they would have otherwise never visited.
In this post let’s look at starting your own food tour business!
What’s a Food Tour?
It’s easy to explain – a food tour is a walking tour with food involved.
Instead of visiting local tourist sights food tours stop by the best local restaurants, cafes, and other cool places to eat.
These tours typically run between 3 and 5 hours in length with full day tours available in some cities.
This type of activity gives tourists a more unique and memorable experience while exploring somewhere new.
Food tours are a great way to dive into the local history and culture of wherever you’re visiting.
Should You Start Offering Food Tours?
Starting a food tour business is a great idea if you’re looking for a new career opportunity or you just want to break into the travel industry.
It helps to be passionate about food and knowledgeable about the local history and culture of your city.
Keep in mind that starting any business can time consuming, stressful, and costly.
The same goes with offering food tours to tourists – it’s not something you can build overnight.
On the other hand, starting a tour business has a low barrier of entry and a lot of flexibility.
This guide will help you make a more informed decision on starting your own food tours.
How to Start a Food Tour Business: A Step by Step Guide
Before we dive into the guide, I want to share with you an interesting statistic on food tourism.
This should give you a better idea of how this type of business can become a profitable venture.
Tourists spend more than one-third of their travel budget on food related purchases.
Along with restaurants, snacks, drinks, and eating out this also includes food tours!
Travelers also spend a significant amount of their travel budget on local excursions.
Visitors to new places are willing to spend money on a food tour – as long as it offers a unique, memorable, and delicious experience.
Tourism is steadily rising around the world and the competition for food tour businesses is still low.
It’s a great time to break into the market and start running your own business in your local area.
Step 1: Choose a Food Tour Niche
Choosing a niche is the first step in setting up your food tour business.
So what’s a niche exactly?
It’s a specific theme or topic that you would apply to the food tours you’re running.
Some examples of food tour niches include:
- Farm to table cuisine
- Bakeries and cafes
- Farmers markets and locally owned restaurants
- Food trucks and other small, quick eateries
Some tours will cover five or more different types of cuisines – this is too many (in my opinion).
Instead, focus on showcasing a specific niche in your local neighborhood.
You want your guests to leave feeling excited and inspired so choose the right places that will leave a lasting impact!
There’s nothing wrong with a “general” food tour, especially in smaller cities without many options.
In bigger cities choosing a food tour niche is the only way to compete against the other tour companies.
Step 2: Write a Business Plan
The next stage in starting a food tour business is writing the business plan.
Having a detailed plan will keep you on track while you grow your business.
Writing your business plan will help you discover:
- How much money you’ll need to make the tours work Where the investments are coming from
- How the tours will generate income
- What the purpose of starting your food tours is
Writing this plan isn’t hard and should only take you a few hours.
When you’re working on your plan try to think of solutions to the following:
- What’s the value that you provide to your customers?
- What makes your tour company unique?
- What problem does your business solve for your customers?
- Why should people choose your business over the alternatives?
- Who is your ideal customer?
- What products and services are you offering?
- What makes your business better than the alternatives?
- How do you plan to Market your products and services?
- What are your sales channels?
- What have you achieved so far and what are your major goals for your company?
- Why are you the right person to make your company successful?
Planning your business from day one is a foundation of success in the travel industry.
Need help with your food tour business plan?
Get in touch with me through my contact page – I’d love to help you out
Step 3: Plan the Food Tour Itinerary
Research is essential to planning an amazing food tour.
Expect the first tour that you plan to take weeks or months of meticulous research.
After planning the first tour the rest aren’t nearly as difficult to plan – some of you might even find the planning process a lot of fun.
Here are the 5 stages of planning your food tour itinerary:
- Stage 1 – Planning (Pen and paper + Google )
- Stage 2 – Research (Hitting the streets and speaking to locals eateries)
- Stage 3 – Writing the script
- Stage 4 – Recruiting guides and negotiating with restaurants/partners
- Stage 5 – Marketing + Website setup
Some factors to keep in mind when you’re going through your itinerary include:
- The best local eateries (check Google Reviews and ask around on Instagram)
- Distances between tour stops (keep it 5 to 10 minutes between places)
- Opening and closing times
- Special offers and local favorites on the menu
- Capacities and seating availability during peak times
- Restaurants and eateries that are historically and culturally relevant
All of this will help you put together an incredible food tour itinerary that will give your guests an amazing time exploring your city.
Try not to stick too rigidly to the itinerary – your guests will have unique requirements so you’ll have to make some itinerary changes on the fly.
Every 6 months it’s a good idea to update your itinerary making sure that the places you’re visiting continue to provide the quality you’re looking for.
Step 4: Get in Touch With Local Businesses
Start with a minimum of 5 different food tour stops.
Visit each place as early in the day as possible, preferably before they open for business to the public.
This way you’ll be able to speak to a manager or owner without interrupting the service.
Start by introducing yourself and sharing what your food tour business is about.
Explain why you want to include their restaurant or eatery.
Be clear that you’re for paying for everything upfront.
Don’t hesitate to explain that restaurants and other eateries benefit from being featured food tours if you experience any push back.
As for choosing the right places to eat, you’ll have to know the local area to discover the best spots!
Alternatively, you can browse Google Reviews or Instagram for inspiration if you’re having trouble finding places for your tour.
Avoid tourist traps and restaurant chains – you don’t want to explain why you’re visiting the Olive Garden.
Consider emailing the restaurant if you’re not able to speak with anyone in person.
Step 5: Prepare for the Tours (Staff + Equipment)
With the website up and running it’s time to start getting ready for running tours.
At this point you’ll know the restaurants you’re visiting and you’ll have a rough estimate of your expected costs.
The tour itinerary should be finished and now you’re wondering what to do next.
Do you plan on running tours yourself or will you be hiring a guide?
Having an itinerary and detailed script makes it easy to hire a guide.
As for paying the guide – many tour guides work on tips but you can consider an hourly payment or flat rate.
Alternatively, running the tours on your own gives you full control over the entire food tour experience.
At the start doing everything yourself will save money while teaching you the basics of starting a travel business.
Consider taking on additional tour guides as your business grows.
What about equipment?
There isn’t much equipment needed for food tours.
Some of the things you’ll need might include:
- Paper handouts (personal preference)
- Umbrella for poor weather
- Bills and small change for accepting cash payment
- Smartphone and water bottle
- Script and detailed itinerary when you’re starting out
Once you memorize the script and have given a few tours you’ll no longer need to bring it with you.
Step 6: Setup the Food Tour Website
Setting up the website for your food tour business is the most technical part of getting started.
Don’t worry – let me show you how to start your website in 4 simple steps:
Step 1: Register Your Domain Name
The domain name is the URL, or the www.TOURNAMEHERE.com part of your website.
The best place for domains is Namecheap – head over to Namecheap and buy your domain
Choose a domain that’s easy to find and remember.
For example, domains like “HoustonFoodTours.com” or “FoodToursToronto.ca” are great.
Step 2: Find a Web Hosting Company
To have your website show up on the internet you need a web hosting company.
The best web hosting for smaller sites and travel companies I recommend is Siteground.
Prices starts at $4 per month for hosting so head to Siteground and get started.
Need help setting up your website? Don’t hesitate to get in touch – I’d love to help you out.
Step 3: Build Your Website
Once you have hosting and the domain you can finally start your website on WordPress and get building.
WordPress is a blogging platform that makes it easy to build and design your own website.
A website is needed for making bookings, promoting your food tours, and growing your business.
Your tour site should include:
- Home page
- About page
- Contact information
- Tour information
- Booking options and CTA’s
- Gallery and reviews
It’s easy to put together a site using WordPress.
Having trouble getting your website up and running? Take a look at my Food Tour Website Creation services!
Step 4: Start Adding Content
The final step of setting up your website is to start adding content.
Content is what you share with your website visitors.
It should be designed to convert visitors into tour bookings, or email subscribers at the very least.
Blog posts are one of the best types of content for websites and blogging regularly is a great way to generate new leads and increase your bookings.
What should you blog about?
Share information about your local area visitors would find useful.
Travel guides, day-trip recommendations, reviews, and city itineraries are some ideas for content you can share with your visitors.
Step 7: Making Your First Bookings
Making those first few bookings are going to be the best that you ever make.
They’re going to validate your small business idea and prove that everything you’re doing is working so far!
So, how do you get your first bookings?
To run a successful and profitable food tour it’s essential to promote your business.
Without promoting your business online it’s unlikely that travelers would ever find out about your tours.
There are three places people will find out about your tour company:
- Search engine rankings
- Social media (word of mouth)
- Online reviews
Ranking your tour website on Google will take a minimum of 6 to 12 months from when it was started.
Getting your website ranked is known as search engine optimization and it’s a highly effective strategy of generating new leads and building your business in the long-term.
Social media is a great place to start out with a new business.
Use Instagram and YouTube to share amazing photos and videos that both inform and encourage people.
You can also consider inviting influencers and bloggers to promote your business online.
Online reviews and online review platforms are another way to passively promote your tours.
Getting setup on local review websites is known as local SEO, another travel marketing strategy that takes months to start working.
There are helpful guides on my website and online detailing the best tactics and strategies to grow a small business.
Once you’ve started promoting tours it’s only a matter of time until you make your first booking!
Step 8: Launching Your Food Tour Business
Having made it this far you’re probably ready to launch your food tour to the public.
Who knows, you may have already made some bookings already!
If you’ve followed the steps so far you should have the framework of a profitable food tour company.
Here are some helpful tips for when you official launch:
Make the Tours Easy to Book
Use a booking platform on your website so that tours are easy to book.
The longer someone spends on your website trying to book a tour the less likely they are to follow through with it.
There are a number of great booking platforms to choose from.
Start with something affordable, well-reviewed, and that’s easily integrated into your website.
Setup Social Media
Social media, specifically platforms like Instagram and YouTube, is a great place to generate awareness and make new bookings.
It’s easy to interact with your target audience on these social platforms.
For the travel industry, YouTube on Instagram have the best ROI.
This is where you should focus your marketing efforts when you’re starting out.
Continue to Grow Your Business
The biggest tourist cities are going to have a lot of competition in the guided tour market.
Don’t let competition discourage you – it validates your idea and lets you know there’s a market for what you’re offering.
Analyze your competition and strive to improve on what they’re offering.
Continuously audit your own strategies and itineraries to give your guests the best possible to experience.
Don’t forget to list your business in as many relevant tour guide and tourism-related directories and websites that you’re able to.
Helpful Tips for Running a Successful Food Tour
By now you should definitely know how to start a food tour business.
Here are a few extra things to consider:
Consider Including Food Workshops
Food workshops are a great addition to the tour services you currently offer.
In cities like Budapest and Rome there are already food workshops being offered alongside dedicated tours.
This can be a unique selling point in some markets – something to consider that will set you apart from the competition.
Keep the Meals Small
Avoid going overboard with portion sizes, especially at the first few stops.
Your guests should be sampling and sharing food from one or two plates rather than getting their own meal.
You don’t want to ruin someone’s appetite before the tour is over.
Smaller portion sizes can also help keep costs down.
Share Local History and Culture
A bad tour will only bring people from place to place without sharing anything in between stops.
The time you have between places is a window of opportunity for you to showcase your city.
During this time you can be teaching your guests about local history and explaining unique aspects of local culture.
Take a few tours by yourself to get a feel for what’s being offered and to see how your tours can offer a better experience.