Angela Shen is the CEO of Savor Seattle Food Tours, rated one of the “Top 10 Tours in America” by TripAdvisor and a “must do” by Bon Appétit Magazine. Founded in 2007, Savor Seattle Food Tours offers award-winning food tours that explore the exciting history, culture and food that makes Seattle a top culinary destination. Angela received her undergraduate degree from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. She has served as a Seattle Tourism Ambassador, was named by Puget Sound Business Journal as one of 2011’s Top 40 Under 40, and was a 2012 Nellie Cashman Women Business Owner of the Year Finalist.
She credits her full and rewarding life to rock star team at Savor Seattle and a loving family. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, traveling, and sweating it out in HIIT classes.
How do the experiences you offer at Savor Seattle Food Tours give guests a unique perspective on the history, people or culture of your city?
So much of travel is about experiencing the local cuisine! Our guided food and drink tasting tours give guests an insider’s look at Seattle’s food scene. Along the way, our expert tour guides share colorful commentary about our city’s storied roots and its evolution into the present as the 7th fastest growing city in America.
How have the tours that you offer evolved since their inception?
We have learned over the years to always consider our offerings from a visitor’s perspective. What is it that Seattle is famous for? When we center our experiences around those iconic foods and places, we are able to curate tours that bring together the “can’t miss” spots that make a lasting impression on guests. When we deviate from this formula, thinking that it’s time to experiment and get outside our sweet spot, guests tell us to refocus on our core.
What is one detail of an experience you provide that may go unnoticed by guests, but which you feel is important?
We joke that our food and drink tasting tours are a carefully choreographed food ballet. Each of the 45 different restaurants and food artisans we work with knows in advance exactly what time we are arriving at their location, headcount, and any dietary restrictions that need substitutions. This means that when our guests arrive, our tastings are served within 1-2 minutes of sitting down. This means that we save a lot of time not having to wait in long lines or twiddling our thumbs waiting for food to be made. You have places to go and things to do! That’s why we keep nearly all of our walking tours to an action-packed two hours. By working with the operations of each restaurant so closely, we are able to keep our tours to two hours typically, all while still visiting 5-7 different locations and not feeling rushed.
What do you wish every guest knew as they consider participating in the experiences you offer?
Each guest receives a Savor Seattle VIP discount card valid for 10 days for 10-15% off and other freebies at our 45+ partner Seattle restaurants and attractions. With the money guests then save on their restaurant meals and shopping, this little card often pays for the price of the food tour itself!
Also, we believe in offering a variety of smaller portions because that allows our guests to visit more food places on our tours. So instead of big portions of just a handful of things, we aim for 12+ tastings on every tour type we offer.
What is one piece of clothing or equipment guests should have to maximize their enjoyment of the experiences you offer?
To wash down all the tasty eats during your delicious food tour, we recommend bringing a filled, reusable bottle filled with water. Seattle is a very eco-conscious and green city. As such, bottled water can have a stigma associated with them. Most tour companies in Seattle do not include bottled water on tours. To date, we have saved over 120,000 bottles from ending up in landfills.
What is one travel trend that really excites you?
I love that solo travel is on the rise. There’s something really special about being on your own, exploring a new place, feeling a little outside of your comfort zone. It’s in this fringe that that allows you to be forced into learning mode about your surroundings and about yourself. It can be transformative!
What is one insiders tip to getting the most out of an experiential travel vacation?
Allow for an extra day of down time in each city in a travel itinerary. Sometimes in our excitement to maximize every moment on a trip, we overschedule ourselves and are go-go-go the entire time. By planning in advance to have a day where absolutely nothing is pre-planned, you can catch your breath and go deeper and feel the fabric and texture of a place.
What is one strategy that has helped your business to grow?
We create unexpected discovery. Our goal: surprise and delight. By the nature of the very word “tour,” guests expect to learn something by coming on a Savor Seattle tour. However, it’s what they weren’t expecting to discover that bowls them over. Whether it’s learning about the true location of the first Starbucks store, to igniting a love for truffle salt, we relish in creating moments of unexpected discovery.
What is one personal habit that has helped you to be successful?
I work out for an hour five days a week at 5:30am. It is the one time each day that I channel all of my thoughts and energy into making myself stronger both physically and mentally. I am forced to quiet all other thoughts and someone else is the boss of ME. This focus on being a whole person is a huge part of my “secret sauce,” which translates into better leadership in my business and love for my family.
Please share one instance where a guest had a moving or emotional reaction to the experience you provided to them.
To date, I have been on over 50 different food tours around the world. This past January, I was attending a food tour in Paris and met three lovely women. We got to talking and they shared that they always go on food tours in each city they visit. Their inspiration? Their very first food tour experience years ago…in Seattle! Turns out they had been on Savor Seattle’s Gourmet Seattle Tour three years prior and had fallen in love. We took a selfie together and sent a photo to their tour guide Nick, who has been guiding with us for six years. What a warming experience to meet guests all the way across the globe on a different company’s food tour and know that it was a Savor Seattle experience that inspired them!
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