Akila McConnell started Unexpected Atlanta as a side hustle and has now been working on the business full-time. She started Unexpected Atlanta 6 years ago and hasn’t looked back.

Whether you are looking for a hobby, side hustle, or full-fledged business, learning how to start a walking food tour business could be a great option for you!

The Key on How To Start a Walking Food Tour Business

The most successful growth channel Akila McConnell has had with her walking food tour business is getting press and media attention from around the world.

Her secret? HARO.

How To Use HARO To Get Media Attention

Akila McConnell used HARO early on to get press attention in order to spread her message. HARO, Help a Reporter Out, is an email newsletter that sends you journalist requests daily. You can sift through the requests to see if you fit what they are asking for.

The key to being featured is replying fast and with a unique response. Responses that will get the journalist more attention is preferred by most journalists.

Sam, the professional cuddler who came on episode 47 of The Hobby Hustler, shares her story with HARO.

My Experience With HARO

I’ve used HARO in with side hustles in the past and have found success as well. I filter my Gmail to flag any incoming emails from HARO that have “side hustle” in it. This saves me time and allows me to focus on the emails that need my attention right away.

Why Did You Want to Start a Walking Food Tour Business?

Prior to starting Unexpected Atlanta, Akila was doing Environmental Litigation for a large firm and was highly paid. Although highly paid, she just didn’t love what she did.

One day, sitting in traffic, she was listening to the radio when someone shared a story on how she quit her job to travel the world. At the time, blogging was new, and Akila decided to give it a try!

Akila and her husband started a food and travel blog and traveled for 6 months! During the 6 months, the blog becomes very popular, being picked up by LA Times and other news outlets.

Akila found out she was pregnant with her little girl and had to come back home to Atlanta. When Akila came back to the United States, she had to find a way to continue the business.

Unexpected Atlanta Is Born

That is where Unexpected Atlanta, a walking food tour business starts! Instead of going to places around the world and writing, Akila had to find a way to write locally and attract people to her city.

From the blog, people were asking questions about tours and getting personalized advice. Akila decided to monetize her blog by using the traffic to start a walking food tour business for tourists coming into Atlanta.

What is the time and costs associated with a walking food tour business?

The initial monetary investment is quite low compared to most businesses. You can easily start a walking food tour business with less than $10,000. Akila knows people who have started with less than $1000.

Most of your costs will come when you have clients and tours planned. These costs are food, beverages, travel fees, and event fees.

From a time commitment, it depends on how long you want to spend on your research. You can spend a week building an experience for your clients, or you can spend up to 4 months, which is what Akila does.

How Do You Promote User Generated Content?

Akila credits much of her success to user-generated content. This is content that her clients are posting on her behalf! There are ways to build in your user-generated content within your walking food tour.

Think about what landmarks you are showing your clients. You will want to show them a good mix of the big historic landmarks, but also small landmarks that only true locals know.

Akila does a great job explaining her first tour in Italy when she missed the Sistine Chapel but instead focused tons of times on little buildings that didn’t mean nearly as much.

A lot of what it comes to is your description of the listing for your tour. Be descriptive, share exactly what people are going to see, hear, eat and smell.

How Did You Get Your First Client?

Getting your first client in any side hustle is a difficult task. It is no different if you want to start a walking food tour business.

Akila first put your company on TripAdvisor and then told her family about it. She did friends and family tour, which gave her friends and family a free tour to work out the kinks! At the end of that, she asks her friends and family to leave a review on TripAdvisor if they enjoyed it.

After the second time doing friends and family tour, someone booked the tour through TripAdvisor! From there, Akila was focused on great tours to get word of mouth going.

How Did You Price Your Walking Food Tour Services?

For food tours, you want to figure out your costs. You want your food costs to be 25-30% of your total cost. On top of that, you want your guide cost to be 10-15% of your total cost.

In the beginning, chances are you will be the guide, which means more profit for you.

Other fees may include processing fees, cancellation fees, reseller fees, etc.

At the end of your pricing, you want to be at a 45-50% gross profit.

Can you start a walking food tour business in any city?

Of course! You can start a walking food tour business in any city, but the question you need to ask yourself is “how are you positioning your walking food tour business?

For example, if you are in a college city, you may not want to create tours for tourists. Instead, you will want to create tours for college students.

Tailoring your walking food tours for your guests is what is going to keep you busy!

What is your #1 tip for someone wanting to start a walking food tour business?

Do your work on the front end. Don’t throw it up in a week, you don’t want to get bad reviews.

Connect with Akila McConnell


[email protected]