Food Tours 101—Top Ten Tips For Hosting A Successful NYC Food Tour

Jackie Gordon Singing Chef - Food Tours 101—Top Ten Tips For Hosting A Successful NYC Food Tour

Walking around and nibbling delicious foods with friends is my idea of heaven in any city. The beauty of living in New York City is here there’s a smorgasbord of portable, nosh-able foods you can eat while you’re on the move.

In New York, you can certainly pay someone to take you on a food tour, but doing it yourself gives you much more freedom, flexibility and since you’re not paying for the tour you get to spend more money on FOOD.

Here’s some tips to help you put together an enjoyable food tour in the Big Apple or whatever city you’re in.

Who’s Walking?

One of the most annoying questions on earth is “Are we there yet?” Begin planning your tour with the question, “How do I want my guests to feel at the end of this tour?” Keep in mind the interests and abilities of your guests before you plan where you’re going. What foods do they like? What are their energy levels—are they walkers? Are they adventurous eaters or more conventional? Considering their comfort will make the tour
more enjoyable for you and them.

Plan Ahead 

Hungry people can be mean and impatient (just ask my boyfriend!). Plan out where you want to go ahead of time.

Stumped for “where to go?” Ask a foodie—even if you think you don’t know any, they are always friends who know one. There are also food related websites (NY: Serious Eats, Fork In The Road and Eater are helpful)  and a zillion blogs that will list what they like best. I have a series of DIY NYC food tour guides. You get the first one and access to the subsequent ones by signing up for my mailing list.

Find the shortest or most interesting routes between your destinations. Google maps is great for mapping out multiple destinations and sending/printing a map for your guests. It’s also fun to search nearby and see what’s interesting to check out between nibbles.

VERY IMPORTANT: Make sure you know where the bathrooms are along the way. Some of your destinations will have them. Hotels, department stores, libraries are great places to find relief.

Invite & Organize Your Guests

Putting in a little effort when planning your tour will pay a lot off in the long run. Event Brite is great for inviting guests and a Facebook can also be helpful. They’re free and they makes it easier to keep track of who is coming and to keep them informed.

In your invitation be sure to include an approximate amount of money they should bring to spend on the tour.

To organize your guests, create an e-mail with the itinerary and each person’s contact info so they have it for the tour (in case they’re late or wander off, but also so they have a record of where they’ve been).
Suggest that they:

  • Carry a bottle of water
  • Wear comfortable walking shoes
  • Dress in layers
  • Bring a reusable tote bag (a insulated bag is useful for chocolate when it’s warm)
  • Bring some cash since some places may not take credit cards
  • Bring a note pad and pen

Flesh it Out

If you have the time and the inclination you can gather some facts about the places you’re visiting or the history of the neighborhoods you’re walking in to make your food tour even more interesting for your guests. Often in the smaller places the owner is happy to have a chat with visitors, but be sensitive about how busy they might be.

Think With Your Stomach 

People often say I’m going to STARVE MYSELF before going on a food tour. WRONG! Your stomach shrinks when you don’t eat so unless you are starting your food tour at breakfast, eat lightly earlier in the day. 

You may want to start with savory foods first, then move on to the sweet stuff, so you have a little something in your stomach. I find that going back and forth from sweet to savory makes me a bit ill. 

Another TIP for a straight chocolate tour is to meet your companions ahead of time and have a savory snack or light meal before going on your tour. If you decide to just have chocolate suggest to your guests that they arrive having already eaten a little something.

Size Matters

A good size for a food tour is two to twelve people per tour leader. Less than two and you’re on your own, more and:
There’s too many people to get in and out of each destination quickly, so the tour takes too long
It’s hard to keep track of everybody
Your group might overwhelm some of the smaller places you visit

Sharing Is Caring

Encourage your guests to share the food they’re tasting because:

  • You can taste a greater variety of stuff
  • It’s cheaper
  • It’s less fattening

Timing Is Everything

I can wander around eating for hours, but it’s not for everyone. You can figure on spending 15-20 minutes at each stop depending on the size of your group. Plan accordingly so you can get your food, nosh and shop. A two hour tour is perfect for most folk’s attention span.

Designated Buyer

When you hit a place, like the Doughnut Plant, which can have long lines, with a large group you may want to do what we did on the last donut crawl organized by Hot Grease radio host Nicole Taylor (@foodculturist). Press your face up to the window to see what they have, take everyone’s order and let one or two of your most patient friends stand in line to get everyone’s food.

Capture & Share The Joy

In this day and age one does not have to be encouraged to record moments, but I still like to remind people to do it. Take pictures as you go and share them with your guests. Hanging out with your friends and having fun is one of the purest pleasures in life. Photos and videos help keep memories alive. It’s also fun to share with people who were not lucky enough to come… and you can make them very jealous too.

Share this information. Share the guide. I would love for you to all be on my mailing list. So please sign up if you want access to lots of yummy stuff. Whatever you do, get the info out there and let the feeding begin!

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