5 Tips for New Food Tour Operators

Aspiring to be a food tour guide or run your own culinary tour business? Here are some tips.


The core of any successful food tour is a great route of top-notch tastings, excellent tour guides, and well-thought-out narration that features fascinating historical and cultural information. But there are also tons of details that will really take a tour to the next level. As America’s top ticketing solution and customer service team for food tour operators, we at Zerve have worked closely with entrepreneurs who are learning the ropes, and we’ve spent a lot of time on the phones with customers, hearing about what they like and dislike. Based on all that accumulated knowledge, here are five tips for anyone who is an aspiring food tour guide.

1. Have your tour end where it starts

If you’re located in a city with good public transit, it might be okay to have different start and end points. Otherwise, it’s asking for trouble. People will be annoyed to have to walk back to their cars, will not be familiar enough with the area to find their way back, and will experience all sorts of minor confusions that result in complaints and negative reviews. There are some successful food tours that don’t circle back to Point A, but if you insist on going that route, it is absolutely essential to publicize the fact clearly and loudly before the customer commits to spending money on a ticket.

2. Have alternative options for vegetarians and those with food allergies

Obviously, you have to be upfront about the kinds of foods your group will be sampling so that people will know whether the fare will be unacceptable or even dangerous to them. With that in mind, it’s important to offer alternatives, because every potential customer with a reason not to eat the food on your tour is a customer who doesn’t book a ticket.

3. Make sure you include a bathroom break and time to sit down

In general, a well-planned walking food tour will take around three hours and cover one to one-and-a-half miles total. You might be planning to visit establishments where there’s not always room for a full tour group to sit down, but that’s a lot of time and distance to cover without taking a rest, so make sure you build in a failsafe spot to sit and munch — and a place to use the restroom — around the halfway mark. This is especially important for older customers and those who simply aren’t in top physical form. If you lead them on a grueling march, expect negative reviews!

4. Hand out bottles of water at the beginning of the tour

Also in order to keep your customers healthy and happy during your journey, make sure they have some water to sustain them along the way. They’ll stay hydrated during the walk, and the water also functions as a palate cleanser between tastings. It’s an easy and inexpensive way to build goodwill — customers might be annoyed at having to spend more of their money on drinks during the tour.

5. Give a map to the tourgoers after the tour, so they can head back to shop

You may be leading tourists to interesting areas that they’ll want to explore further, but your tight schedule might not allow it. So create and distribute an information-packed map of the stops afterward. Customers will be able to revisit the areas they loved, and they’ll know the exact names and locations (and phone numbers, and websites…) of the businesses you visited — so it’s not only convenient for them, but also an excellent way to build professional relationships. You can even offer to print coupons on the maps!

Have you been on a food tour? What was your favorite part of the experience?

Ian Wright is the Blog Manager for Zerve. Zerve is the live customer service team and software solution that powers thousands of high-quality activities throughout the United States. You can book tickets quickly, securely and easily at www.zerve.com and keep up with their travel tips at blog.zerve.com

Published April 28th, 2014