Food Entrepreneur

By Beacon Staff

I receive a number of food-related newsletters daily and weekly. It’s one way I stay on top of trends in the culinary world.

Recently, I came across an item about two small cities in Michigan where an entrepreneur has put together “food tours” of the two cities’ restaurants. For a fee, food “tourists” can visit from eight to 12 restaurants and sample each establishment’s cuisine.

Why isn’t this available everywhere?

I travel frequently for both business and pleasure and find myself in strange cities where I don’t know the lay of the land. So when I go looking for places to eat, the only hints I have about any restaurant’s offerings are the menus they may post in their windows. If the menu writer is a talented wordsmith, you can easily be fooled into thinking the products of the kitchen are fantastic.

Sadly, that’s not always the case.

A number of years ago, my wife and I visited a city we had never been to before and we made the mistake of asking the hotel desk clerk where we could find the best restaurant in town. Price was no object, we told her and we made it clear that we were looking for fine dining. Without a moment’s hesitation, the clerk named a place and told us how to get there, praising the establishment as the best the city had to offer, and she further assured us that this would indeed be a fine dining experience we would remember.

Arriving at the place, the first thing we saw was a serve-yourself salad bar. No offense to those of you who enjoy the all-you-can-eat salad bar/buffets, but that is not a trait of a fine dining establishment. Promise.

We had an OK meal, forgoing the salad bar. It was actually while we were having an after-dinner drink that the bartender clued us in about real fine dining in the city. We took his recommendations and were more than satisfied (and grateful).

So between uninformed advice and deceptive menus on display in restaurant windows, I can tell you that I’ve had some perfectly dreadful meals.

But if there were more of these “food tours,” we could have an almost instant understanding of the food culture of almost any city. The stops don’t all have to be fine dining. After all, not every meal I eat out is fancy white linen tablecloth stuff. I like a burger just as much as the next person. Fried chicken (actually, fried anything) is up there, too.

Seriously, if one of you out there doesn’t do this business idea, I’m going to do it. I’m going to get together with every restaurant owner and chef I know and put together a special sampling program. Then I’m going to make arrangements with the hotels and motels in town, print up some brochures and I think I’ve got the makings of a pretty good business idea.

This culinary tour does not have to be confined to strangers in town. This could also be a fun night out with friends. If the activity of the evening is dinner out, you’re going to spend a certain amount per person anyway, so why not spend a similar amount of money on a “moveable feast” – a progressive dinner of sorts.

One of the major television networks has a new show coming on the air this fall about entrepreneurs pitching their ideas to venture capitalists. (OK it’s the same network that my television show is on – ABC.)

I think I’m going to apply. Maybe I can get a couple hundred grand for my “Eat Your Way Through (insert name of city here) Food Tour.”