How to Become a Food Tour Guide to Make Money on the Side

Erik Side Hustle Spotlight 2 Comments

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This post is a guest post from The Budget Epicurean, sharing her side hustle story. Her side hustle is as a food tour guide, and she was able to make a few hundred dollars a month sharing her passion of food. In this side hustle guest post series, I’m looking to inspire others with unique stories of how people are making some extra money. Starting a side hustle as a food tour guide might be for you. Read on below to learn how to become a food tour guide to earn some extra money on the side!

I remember it like it was yesterday, the early afternoon of April 11, 2015 in Denver Colorado. My mom had come for a visit while I was attending graduate school.

The sun was shining but the weather was still chilly up in the mile high city.

She was in town for just a few days, and had a super fun surprise planned for us, she said.

She took my on my very first Food Tour.

I had never heard of a food tour before this, but it totally makes sense. The tour usually stops at 4 to 6 food or drink spots, with some sightseeing along the way. The group with us was about ten people total, and we had a blast.

We ate, drank, laughed, learned, ate some more, walked, made friends, drank, and ate some more.

Why would anyone pay $50 for one dinner at one location, when you can see five different places and sample all their food and the different ambiances?! Why not learn about all sorts of fun facts, history, and information about the city you are in as well as each restaurant and food you try?

From that day I was hooked on food tours, and thought I could become a food tour guide.

food tour guide

Starting My Food Tour Guide Side Hustle

This food tour experience stuck with me for the next few months.

Sadly, soon after I left graduate school, and not long after that, also left the state of Colorado.

Real estate prices were just too high (thanks, pot laws) for my soon-to-be husband and I to afford the home we wanted.

With these high prices, we jumped ship to the other side of the country, and moved to Connecticut.

In February.

Where the ocean was literally frozen and the high was zero.

Yes, we are well aware of how insane that was.

Anyways, we settled into East Coast life, and the idea of being a food tour guide stuck around. My husband was so supportive, he even thought I could start my own tour company.

Step one was to see if there was even a market for such a thing in our new town. Turned out, there was a market, because there already was a food tour company! It had been around for several years already at that point.

So, I figured, rather than try to start up a competing tour, why not keep my lucrative day job and just see if I could learn the ropes from this company which clearly already knew what it was doing?

And the rest is history.

I was a guide in Connecticut for 2 years. Then when we moved again, to our forever home in North Carolina, I immediately found a tour company, contacted the owner, and have been guiding for them for another 2 ½ years.

I have done between 1 and 6 tours per month, on Saturdays or Sundays, and a few special events. Most tours I’ve done are 1 – 2 miles walking, round trip, and take 3-5 hours.

I’ve loved doing this fun side hustle and want to share some more details on how you could start working as a food tour guide.

What is a Food Tour Guide?

food tour guide hustleA food tour guide is exactly that, a guide for a food tour!

A food tour is typically walking, and has several stops. The group meets up somewhere, and the guide will introduce themselves and the tour route, set the expectations, and hopefully do a little intro of the town.

In addition, you’ll include an icebreaker to get the group comfortable if they don’t already know each other and look to create an enjoyable experience for everyone.

The guide then leads the group through the tour from restaurant to restaurant, sometimes stopping at notable locations along the way to describe some history of the place you’re touring or a notable piece of art, etc.

We also call ahead to each stop to let them know the final head count on the tour, remind them of any allergies or special requests, and let them know if the group in on schedule or not.

The guide’s main goal is to make sure each restaurant treats us well and that the guests are having a good time.

How Can I Become a Food Tour Guide?

Most cities have food tour guide companies.

I’d start by googling “Food Tour in <your city>” and see if there are already any companies locally.

If so, go check out their website. There will likely be a contact page, just send the owner an email and say you are interested in learning more and becoming a guide for them.

If there are no tour companies in your area, then you have some big choices to make.

  • Do you have a cluster of good food stops close enough to walk between them all (1-2 miles is pretty typical)?
  • Do you have enough interest that people in your town will want to do tours, and preferably a good amount of tourists as well?

If the answer to these questions is yes, you could possibly start your own food tour guide company and take people to different restaurants.

You would need to go talk to the business owners to find partners on your tours, and work out arrangements with each restaurant/business.

Joining an existing company would most likely be the easiest, but starting your own company is always an option.

What is Expected of a Food Tour Guide?

As the tour guide, you are the de facto expert of food, culture and geography.

On the tour, people ask you about food, the restaurants you are going to, anything about the town you are touring or the state you are in. They also ask about you, and how you got into food tour guiding.

You should make sure you have an elevator pitch about yourself prepared, and some fun facts about your town.

It helps if you’ve been to the stops on your tour before, and for a real overachiever introduce yourself to the owners and or staff and ask if they have any stories or history they want your tour to know about.

Some additional expectations and things to do on the food tours are:

  • You may need to pay or tip at some of the stops, in which case your company owner should supply you cash ahead of time or a company credit card.
  • You are expected to show up on time, to be able to command a groups’ attention, and to shepherd people safely through a city.
  • When you are on the tour, show your personality! You are also expected to be outgoing, fun and loud, especially at the beginning of the tour before everyone gets more comfortable.
  • Finally, you want to provide them a relaxing, fun, and memorable experience.

How Much Can I Make as a Food Tour Guide?

As a food tour guide, you can make potentially $100 a tour. You will likely be paid a flat fee per tour by the company, plus any tips from your guests.

While this isn’t a super lucrative side hustle, you can still make some extra money to pay down debt, save more, or get some extra spending money.

I have been paid between $35 – $50 per tour by the companies I’ve worked for, and for tips, these have varied drastically.

My best tour was a 6 person for which I got $100 in tips, but I’ve also had several tours with $0 in tips.

You typically can’t predict how well people will or will not tip you; I’ve had tours I thought went very well and the group had a blast, and then got nothing.

The hourly rate is not the greatest, as most tours run 3-4 hours, but the tips can push it into lucrative territory.

That being said, you will most likely get a free meal out of it, which adds a little bit more to the compensation!

What are the Hours Like for Food Tour Guides?

Each food tour is different, but typically, a tour will be 3 to 5 hours. The amount of time a tour will take is completely dependent on how many stops you are scheduled to take.

Most tours run on the weekends, some companies have weeknights or daytime tours offered. Companies offer private tours for birthdays, company events, bachelorette parties, etc.

Depending on the company you work for, you could work up to every weekend each month.

Finally, most tours also run no matter the weather unless it is truly severe. You will want to dress and plan accordingly. Whether that means bringing an umbrella, layers, or a thick winter coat and hat, you’ll want to be prepared.

All in all, if you work most weekends, you could expect to make a few hundred extra dollars a month from your food guide side hustle!

food tour guide side hustle

What’s the Best and Worst Parts of Being a Food Tour Guide?

Every side hustle has its pros and cons.

The best part of being a food tour guide is definitely getting to meet all the people on the tours, and the local restaurant staff in your town.

I meet people who lived there their whole life, and meet out of town people visiting family, touring colleges, or celebrating birthdays. Touring different places and meeting people is always fun and different, and I get to learn a lot myself about other people and cultures.

Also, you usually get to eat and drink along with the tour group, so I get a free dinner every Saturday tour!

The worst part of being a food tour guide is when you think you did a really great job guiding the tour, and then get zero tips. I try not to take it personally and think some people just don’t know to how to tip so, or maybe don’t have the spare cash flow to do so.

Become a Food Tour Guide and Make Some Extra Money

There you have it, the glamorous life of a food tour guide side hustler!

If you are the type of person who is very outgoing and likes getting people to talk to each other and telling stories, becoming a food tour guide might be for you.

If you seek out knowledge about your town and local restaurants and like sharing those facts, and if you love eating and talking about food and don’t mind walking, becoming a food tour guide is the hustle for you.

There are so many amazing side hustles out there in the world. I’ve found a side hustle I love, and hope you can too!

Readers: what do you think about this side hustle idea? Would you want to become a food tour guide to make some extra money?

How to make extra money as a food tour guide.

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