Shannon Zimmermann wants to take you out to eat.
Starting in March, her new company, Columbus Eats Food Tours, will begin walks downtown that include stops to sample cuisine at various restaurants. She is already conducting Happy Hour Tours, which feature stops at establishments to get a taste of special alcoholic beverages and appetizers.
An administrative assistant in the Muscogee County School District, the Columbus native got the food tour idea while visiting her son in St. Louis. Zimmermann then enrolled in a Food Tours Pros program taught by Shane Kost in Chicago that focuses on providing training to people interested in owning and operating a food tour business.
"People from all over the world get this training," she said.
Zimmermann began to believe in the possibility of successful food tours when she saw an "explosion of growth" downtown.
"It seems like a new restaurant or bar is opening every day," she said. "There is a lot of diverse culinary options. With Columbus State University bringing people downtown, you will see even more. These tours are great not only for tourists, but for people who just do not get downtown very often."
She said the tours have been successful in other southern cities such as Savannah, Ga., and Charleston, S.C.
Zimmermann said the toughest part of getting such a business off the ground is negotiating with the restaurants and convincing them these tours mean good things for their business.
"We are hoping people will take a tour, get an idea of what a restaurant has to offer and go back again. That is how the restaurant benefits," said Zimmermann, who once operated her own catering business.
Columbus historical information is an added bonus of the tour.
Happy Hour Tours are conduced on Fridays. They go 1 mile and lasts about 90 minutes. Usually, 10-12 people are on the tour that costs $40.
The tour that begins at 5:30 p.m. in
cludes signature drinks from three establishments as well as some light appetizers. You must be at least 21 years old to participate.
An example of a tour is a stop at The Loft for drinks and appetizers, then a visit to Black Cow for more of same with a finish at Scruffy Murphy's Irish Pub.
"We like the tour members to try something special and unique at each place," she said.
People do not choose from a menu. The food, drinks and seating are ready upon arrival.
When the food tours begin, rain or shine, they will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The price will be $45 for adults and $25 for children under 12.
"Families are invited to take the tour," Zimmermann said.
Tour participants will stop at six places and enjoy some time eating at Heritage Park.
A food tour will cover approximately 2.5 miles and last three hours. Something different can be prepared for someone who has special dietary needs as long as enough information is given ahead of time.
An example of a food tour would be stops at Country's Barbecue, 11th And Bay, Mama Goldberg's, Black Cow and other restaurants.
"It is something different to eat everywhere," she said.
Zimmermann added she is looking not only for people to take the tour, but also for more eating establishments to participate. Those seeking more information or tickets go to www.columbuseatsfoodtours.com or call 1-800-656-0713.
"It is going to be exciting," she said. "It is a fun way to spend part of the day."