Sampling the delicacies of the Cincinnati food scene via a tour is probably not at the top of anyone’s mind right now. For those who aren’t familiar, food tours generally consist of a tour guide who shares interesting facts about the history and culture of the city while moving through a set walking path to a variety of restaurants. Each stop involves a drink or food sample.
Food tours were forced, like so many companies, to close down in March, but the food tours in Cincinnati were able to come back online this summer, amid new challenges. “Many restaurants are still only open in the evening, and my tours are usually in the morning or afternoon,” says Michael Van Oflen, owner of Flavors of the Queen City. “Other restaurants have closed down altogether or are only doing delivery or carryout orders.”
Food tour operators even at the best of times must be adaptable and good at building relationships with restauranteurs throughout the city over time. “We’ve focused on hosting our five most popular tours for now,” says Laura Noyes, owner of Riverside Food Tours. “It was very slow at first, but visitors coming to Cincinnati are happy to see that our city has tours seven days a week. The granddaddy of all food tours, Foods of New York Tours, is closed until April 2021.”
The tours have a range of safety procedures in place at this point, from the ability to book private itineraries for a single party of people to mask-wearing between actual tasting times. They use sanitizer, distribute individually-wrapped food samples, and aim to eat in open-air or patio areas whenever possible.
“We’ve been blessed with really good weather this year,” says Barb Cooper, owner of Cincinnati Food Tours. “Most people on my tours are very comfortable, but we’ve lost our out-of-town people. Very few come from farther than Dayton.”
With the winter months coming, a time when food tours are usually in lower demand anyway, companies may focus on gift certificates for future tours, as well as compilation products like the Cincinnati Food Tours’ gift box of Cincinnati-made food items.
“We’ve all had to twist and turn, zig and zag, and people have been very understanding,” Cooper says. “Food tours are a safe way to help other small businesses during a time that is challenging for everyone.”