A new Irish start-up business, Irish Food Tours, is building a network of food tourism holidays around the whole island of Ireland, north and south. Started by Donegal Town chef Zack Gallagher and his business partner Wendy Kavanagh from Kildare, the guests on these culinary tours will learn the story behind the vast array of Irish artisan food products.
Irish Food Tours offer guided food tour holidays, by coach around Ireland, covering all 32 counties north and south of the Irish border. The tours include visits to the best food producers, restaurants, accommodation and food excursions that are available. Each Irish Food Tour includes a minimum of two visits per day to various artisan food producers, all lunches and dinners in award winning local restaurants and all accommodation. (Inbound flight costs and beverages are not included.)
At the recent Ulster Bank Business Achievers Awards ceremony in Dublin, they were pipped to the post for the top new Food Start-up Award by no less than the giant county Meath tourist attraction Tayto Park.
The new business, started by the two chefs, has seen a gap in the tourism market to provide tour operators with a new product of itineraries tailored to international and Irish tourists who have a love of all things foodie and wish to see some of Ireland’s artisan food producers in action on their farms and in their production units.
There are food "trips" offered by some other Irish websites, where visitors to Ireland can find details of food producers, but the travellers have to make their own arrangements. Irish Food Tours are the only Irish company to provide guided food tours by coach with all arrangements organised by the company in advance of your arrival.
The new business is currently promoting their product to travel agents via their international tour operator partners, the White's & Associated Hotels Group, who described the food tours as “The best new tourism product to come on the Irish market in fifteen years”.
They are currently looking to partner with more US-based Tour Operators interested in food tourism.
The two food entrepreneurs have also, just this week, launched the first of their three-day Irish Food Tours and are starting off with a food tour of County Kilkenny, which starts on the 7th June. These short weekend tours consist of two nights Bed & Breakfast, two gourmet dinners, two lunches and four guided food and heritage visits to artisan food producers and cultural sites, all included. Details of how to book a place on this tour are on their website www.IrishFoodTours.ie.
Irish Food Tours are also the only Irish tour group that pay the food producers for their time, to talk to and describe their methods of production to the tour guests, giving demonstrations and tastings. In this way the tour guests get to hear the “story behind the food”. This extra revenue will help the food producers to develop better visitor centres for guests and will hopefully enable them to employ more staff as their business grows.
Zack Gallagher, a chef and food-blogger from Donegal Town and one of the founders of the business said, “Over the last fifteen years or so, food in Ireland has undergone a massive transformation and the quality of the food now being produced here is absolutely second to none in the world!“
“Irish chefs are using these quality products to create wonderful menus and customers who are paying out hard-earned cash are demanding the best that they can get, ” he added.
“There has been great interest in our business idea since we started putting it together last year. We have established links with Irish industry travel experts who regularly attend international Trade Fairs and they have come on board to use their contacts in the industry abroad to promote our Irish Food Tours abroad. We also have the support of the national tourism agencies.”
He continued, “The future of food, as a tourism business in Ireland, is an excellent opportunity for us to grow our business and to help others to grow their businesses too. Small food producers, with localised markets work very hard at what they do but don’t always have enough trade to employ more staff and grow. We are providing all the participating food businesses with an additional income stream and also the opportunity to build relationships with potential customers for sales and online sales into the future. We hope that our tours will increase revenue for the artisan producers, restaurants and accommodation providers. By doing so may help generate new employment in our industry.”
Wendy Kavanagh, the other founder of Irish Food Tours is also a chef and food promoter. “The general consensus among our Food partners is one of great expectation for the future,” she said. “They have the food products already on sale, the accommodation providers are operational, the restaurateurs are looking forward to new customers and we are the only company offering to amalgamate these products into a complete holiday package.”