Ep. 38 — The Story of Secret Food Tours with Linda Denbrock.

10 minutes with Linda Denbrock of Secret Food Tours.

Secret Food Tours offers delicious food tours in over 55 cities in Europe, the Americas, and Asia.

Linda sat down with Tourpreneur Podcast Host Shane Whaley and revealed the mission of Secret Food Tours including how they strive to deliver an authentic, immersive experience for their food tour guests plus how they market their tours to travelers.

This episode and interview of Tourpreneur@Arival is presented by Checkfront. The booking platform trusted by over 5,000 tour and activity operators around the world. You can start your own free 21-day trial over at Checkfront.com.

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Links and Resources Mentioned on This Episode of Tourpreneur – the podcast for tour operators.

Interview with Linda Denbrock of Secret Food Tours Transcript.

Shane:                                      This is Tourpreneur at Arival presented by Checkfront. We’re joined by Linda Denbrock of Secret Food Tours.

Linda:                                        Yes, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Shane:                                      Marvelous. So how long have you guys been operating for?

Linda:                                        We have been in operation for five years. We started with two tours in, or I should say two cities, London and Paris, and have exploded. Our growth has been phenomenal and we’re now in 54 cities around the globe, 26 countries.

Shane:                                      Congratulations.

Linda:                                        Yeah, isn’t it amazing?

Shane:                                      So tell me a little bit about … Let’s talk maybe about London, the tours that you offer there. What kind of tours do you offer?

Linda:                                        You know, I was just recently there and got to experience a fantastic London Bridge tour where they actually take you into some of the marketplaces and you get a chance to really explore the city like a local. That’s really what we try to do is to create tours that are going to give you that next level experience where you’re really getting immersed. So, you’re going in there, you’re going to the same marketplaces where the locals are shopping.

Shane:                                      Yes.

Linda:                                        We also offer an Indian tour for those folks … That’s a huge area for Indian food and that’s something that to know those really great places and get kind of a little extra glimpse into that is fantastic.

Shane:                                      Indian food is my all time favorite cuisine, so living in the United States, as much as I love it here, it’s very difficult to get good Indian food here in my opinion.

Linda:                                        It is. I agree.

Shane:                                      It sounds like a tour I might have to check out.

Linda:                                        Well that’s one that, that’s the next on our last, so we have a Shoreditch tour …

Shane:                                      Right.

Linda:                                        … and [craft 00:02:21] beer tour, and we just launched a gin tour.

Shane:                                      A gin tour?

Linda:                                        Yeah, a secret gin tour.

Shane:                                      Wow.

Linda:                                        So that’s kind of cool for those folks that are looking for something, again, a deeper dive into the area and what makes that area special.

Shane:                                      Absolutely. So, how do people go about finding you then? Because, you know, people go to London and they’ll go to Buckingham Palace, Madame Tussauds. If I’m going to London I’m not thinking I want to go on an Indian food tour, unless someone presents that to me, then I’d be really excited about it. How do you go about promoting your tours to people who may not know you exist?

Linda:                                        Well, that’s a great question. We pop up when you’re going in, you’re typing in, for tours in the London area. You know that the food tour business in itself is exploding.

Shane:                                      Yes.

Linda:                                        So, if you’re going to go in and you type in food tour we’re going to pop up.

Shane:                                      Into Google you mean?

Linda:                                        Yes, into Google. We’re going to show up and-

Shane:                                      Is that organic or is that paid ads that you’re showing up on?

Linda:                                        We’re actually paid, and because we’re a very well-established, one of the most popular tours, we do show up organically right at the top, as well, in those cities. We’re there on Viator, as well, so if you’re typing food tours on some of the more popular OTAs we’re going to be there, as well.

Shane:                                      Yes. So, I think discovery is going to get a lot better as people experience a really good food tour in one city, they’ll look for it in another.

Linda:                                        That’s our goal… There’s that risk with a food tour to commoditize yourself, and what we’re really trying to do is create that point of differentiation with Secret Food Tours.

Our tours are smaller in nature. They’re designed to be more intimate so you’re really, across the board in all the tours that we have, over 70+ tours that we have, it’s a consistent branded experience so that if you’ve taken a Secret Food Tour we want them to know that the Secret Food Tour and look for us the next time they go on vacation and have that same trusted experience with a tour that was created by a local, and they have that very authentic immersive experience.

They’re going to come out of that three-hour tour with a really great idea of what makes that city tick, not just the food, but the art, and the culture, and the architecture in the area, and how they all have kind of a confluence to create what makes that city so special.

Shane:                                      So, when you started out how did you know there was going to be a demand for this kind of tour? It was how many years ago? Five?

Linda:                                        Five.

Shane:                                      Five years ago.

Linda:                                        I think that it was kind of a happy accident. The owners love food, very passionate about it. They started it just by sharing their love of food and the things that they had discovered with their friends. I think that they were just part of the zeitgeist. They discovered that there was a demand for this. They’re like, “You know what? Well, let’s take this to the next city, to the next city.” Then, this year our goal has been to take that growth across the United States, North America. So, we’re in Canada. We’re in South America. We have taken our show on the road across the country, so you can find us in Seattle. We are opening in San Diego right around the corner, LA, Denver, up in Canada, or in Toronto, Montreal-

Shane:                                      You’re based in New Orleans, correct?

Linda:                                        I personally am in New Orleans.

Shane:                                      You have a tour there, …

Linda:                                        Yes.

Shane:                                      … I hope?

Linda:                                        Yes. It’s going to be opening here in probably about six weeks. I actually had a hand in putting that together. It’s a tough job, having to like taste food from all these different fantastic restaurants, you know … Feel sorry for me.

Shane:                                      I do. Yeah, absolutely, I do.

Linda:                                        Well, we have a real special tour there and that is a city that offers so many opportunities …

Shane:                                      Yes.

Linda:                                        … for a company like ours.

Shane:                                      Absolutely.

Linda:                                        Because, so many great stories of … New Orleans is so impactful to the food stage, …

Shane:                                      Yes.

Linda:                                        … so many great chefs, food styles that started in our little part of the world.

Shane:                                      Yeah, because if I think of New Orleans I definitely think food. I would definitely search Food Tour …

Linda:                                        100%

Shane:                                      … going to New Orleans.

Linda:                                        Very much so.

Shane:                                      Particularly for Europeans coming to New Orleans, you don’t want to miss out on anything. I like that you’re called Secret, because everybody wants to have the insider information. That’s what makes a successful tour …

Linda:                                        Absolutely.

Shane:                                      … to feel like an insider.

Linda:                                        Well, and there’s another story to that Secret in our name in that we offer a secret bite on our tours that we do not advertise in the material, but it is meant to be a little bit of a wow factor when they are on the tour, like, “Well, I didn’t know I was going to get this,”

Shane:                                      Nice.

Linda:                                        It can be enjoyed even in a particular special location. I don’t want to give away too much.

Shane:                                      Yes, because we have millions of listeners now who are going to be looking out for the Secret bite.

Linda:                                        Millions?

Shane:                                      You don’t know that? Millions of people listen to Tourpreneur.

Linda:                                        Well I believe it. It’s a great resource for …

Shane:                                      Thank you.

Linda:                                        … folks. You’re doing a very nice job.

Shane:                                      Thank you. I appreciate it. What does your distribution mix look like? Say you use Google Ad Words, you mentioned Viator. What’s the mix look like between say OTAs and direct business?

Linda:                                        We have about 85% of our business is direct.

Shane:                                      Wow.

Linda:                                        Which is great, but what it means to me is that I have a whole lot of opportunity for additional means of garnering business. So, we’ve really been going after this last year and wanting to work with tour operators, and travel agents, and DMCs, and I feel like we’ve hid our light under a bushel basket as my grandma used to say. We’re trying to build awareness that we’re out here and that we are going to be like a one-stop shopping experience for a travel agent looking for a partner …

Shane:                                      Yes, absolutely.

Linda:                                        … of quality tours that consumers can feel like is an intimate experience. They’re not going to get lost in a sea of folks, that they’re really to be able to sit down and enjoy something special and get a full experience.

Shane:                                      Absolutely. Another question I’d like to ask you is in terms of booking direct with you, which booking platform provider do you utilize for that?

Linda:                                        We work with TicketingHub, and they’re out of London, and it’s very easy to find us at secretfoodtours.com and create that complete experience for them. They do not need to print out their tickets. They simply book, it shows up on their phone, they bring their phone to the tour and boom shakalaka they’re in.

Shane:                                      They’re in. Excellent.

Linda:                                        Another thing I would like to mention that’s kind of cool that we offer is we do offer drink upgrades, or food upgrades, depending on the type of tour that it is, so they can really make that experience even more special if they want to experience some of the local wines or special cocktails that were made specifically for our tour and just add that on to their tour.

Shane:                                      Excellent. What’s the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you in the travel industry?

Linda:                                        I think be fearless. I think that the opportunities are out there for all of us to be able to share our love of travel, and food, or whatever, and you’ve just got to be fearless in going after, and promoting that, and discovering it, and learning about it. I think that’s just good advice across the board.

Shane:                                      Where can people find your tours? What’s the website?

Linda:                                        secretfoodtours.com.

Shane:                                      Fantastic. Thank you for joining us today.

Linda:                                        Thank you so much. We appreciate you and what you offer our community, and thanks for giving us a few minutes of time.

Shane:                                      Thank you. I am now starving hungry. I haven’t had lunch. We’ve talked about food in New Orleans, Indian food, I am ravenous.

Linda:                                        That’s our goal.

Shane:                                      Thank you.

Linda:                                        Thank you so much.

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