They say you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone.
Such was the case for Bethe Hattara and Lisa Wagner, who both suffered major knee injuries in 2017 that took them away from their favorite pastimes.
“We vowed that when we recovered, we’d do something that would push us forward, physically,” says Wagner, describing the angst of going from a biking, kayaking, active lifestyle to being laid up with less than a 30-degree range of motion after surgery.
“When it takes a year to recover, you really start to celebrate every step,” Hattara adds. Before they were out of action, both women were self-proclaimed foodies and avid food tour enthusiasts, clocking in several dozen tours each, in cities near and far.
“Food tours are a wonderful way to open the door to a new town,” says Hattara, adding that local guides often embellish their scripts with personal stories, shopping recommendations and tips that aren’t found in the standard visitors’ guide. They truly offer a local take on the town.
“Each time we’ve done them, we’ve walked away satiated—with great food and drink—but also nuggets from the guide,” Wagner says. Realizing the Wayzata community was having a culinary boom while they watched from the sidelines, the pair decided it would be the perfect time to plan for a business launch based on their shared love of great food and deepened appreciation for walking. Their Taste of Wayzata food tour company was born, with its first tour group embarking in May 2018. The company offers several options, including a Happy Hour Tour, a West Side Craft Brewery Tour, and a Bubbles, Brunch and Brew Tour, among others.
The owners curate everything, from reservations at in-demand spots like Bellecour and Dough Room to ideal seating to perfectly planned bites that span tastes and cooking styles. There’s history thrown in and bartending tips from local mixologists—and some tours have finished with dancing. Hattara and Wagner have spent much of the last couple years building relationships with local business owners, explaining their concept and getting buy-in. Each guest goes home with a “swag bag” filled with coupons and freebies encouraging them to check out other local businesses when they’re done.
They’ve had families attend, some giving the tour as a Christmas gift to adult children. There have been bachelorette parties and girls’ getaways. Companies have used the tours to celebrate employers or try to lure new ones to Minnesota—which can sometimes be a hard sell. Real estate companies give tours as home closing gifts to buyers who are new to the area. Across all groups, the response has been positive. Hattara and Wagner are even discussing adding a third guide to the lineup for their second season.
“We want to make visitors feel like they’re local,” says Hattara. “And we want to help locals—even if they’ve lived here for 30 years—discover something new about their town. And we’re having an absolute blast.”