Belfast Food Tours - Chasing a Foodie Dream
Many of us dream of trying out a new career, but few of us actually make the move. But in the case of Caroline Wilson, it was the vibrant foodie scene in Belfast that inspired her to swap the legal world for the culinary industry.
A Change of Direction
After 15 years of practicing law, Caroline made the bold decision to set up her own food and drink tour business. “Much to my mum’s surprise, I took a career break for the year of food and drink coming up,” she reveals. “I thought, ‘Now’s the time to take the leap!’ and I gave up law and went full-time with the food tour.”
A dedicated foodie, the tour was inspired by Caroline’s European travels. She explains: “It was a result of me drinking and eating my way around Europe on other food tours. I went on a tour here in Belfast and found that it was more based on theatre than it was on food. I remember we were eating Argentinian beef and I thought ‘Why aren’t we eating local food?’ We should be eating food grown here, rather than food that was flown here.”
A canny observation, Caroline’s brave move has paid off. What started as a tour with three people quickly grew through word of mouth and now every tour is fully occupied. Better yet, the tours are fully booked up until mid-July.
Northern Ireland's Year of Food and Drink
With a wealth of local producers to draw from, 2016 has been declared Northern Ireland’s Year of Food and Drink. And Caroline is excited about shining a light on her favourite city.
“Belfast is such an amazing place,” she enthuses. “We’re going through what I’m calling a revolution of food, drink and tourism in general. It’s such a brilliant place to come for a weekend. It’s perfect.”
Surprisingly for Caroline, the majority of guests on the Belfast Food Tour have been locals who want to experience new places in their home city.
She reveals: “So far, I haven’t really done any marketing outside of Northern Ireland. Word of mouth is everything. My guests have been amazing and they have told their family, friends and colleagues about the tour. That’s how it has built up. And now, thanks to sites like Trip Advisor, I have been getting more tourists from further afield and they know to book ahead.”
More recently, Caroline has been focusing on creating bespoke tours for groups that travel outside of Belfast to explore the wider attractions of Northern Ireland. She explains: “Thankfully with the year of food and drink, so many doors have opened up to distilleries and visitor attractions all revolving around food. I join up the dots when it comes to the food scene around Northern Ireland and show people what’s on their doorstep.”
Business Eye AIB (NI) Small Business Awards
After finding out about The Small Business Awards from her AIB (NI) relationship manager, Caroline decided to enter. Discussing her application, she explains: “It’s not about me, it’s about the tour itself. We’re showcasing the people, places and produce of Northern Ireland and if we could win an award like this, it would really make me feel that what we’re doing is the right thing.”
Winning a Small Business Award would be a hugely positive experience for Caroline.
“Winning this award for my team would make me a very happy person,” she admits. “Not even just for us, but for all of the producers we showcase. It’s their food and their drink that makes the tour what it is. It’s also the guests of course - they’re great craic and we like to show them a really great time.”