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9 min 49 sec

ABC News Reporter Dishes Out Profitable Pizza Tour

A Chicago food reporter launches weekly pizza tours, showing Windy City visitors that there’s more to life than just deep-dish.
Food Niche Ideas Service Tourism

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What It's About

Breaking News — a reporter helps others get a taste of the best pizza Chicago has to offer.

Business Model
Service
Skills Required
Organization & Coordination
Complexity
Medium
Profit Potential
Medium

Words of Wisdom

I think the key to long-term success here is getting listed in guide books and city directories and all of the promotional tourism materials that are distributed every year. For most of those things, getting listed and endorsed can take a while, but once you’re there, you’ll just be renewed every year.

Fun Fact

Working as a food reporter since 2003 with 13 James Beard Awards under his belt, Steve felt that he had to set the record straight about Chicago’s pizza scene. So, like any great reporter, Steve spent time in the field gathering research. He spent the better part of a year sampling pizza from 185 locations which led to a shocking revelation: Chicago is a “thin town” with the majority of pizzerias specializing in tavern-style pizza that’s thin, crisp, and square-cut—not deep-dish!

Notes from Chris

Episode 809

Steve Dolinsky wears many hats. He’s the food reporter for Chicago’s ABC 7 news team. He runs two podcasts, and he offers media training outside of Chicago for chefs. He’s a veritable curator of culinary experiences. He’s also the new owner of Pizza City USA Tours, offering weekly pizza tours, by both bus and foot.

Why did he start this side hustle when he’s already got so much going on?

Well, he had a book coming out in the fall of 2018 called Pizza City USA. Oh yeah, he’s also an author. Steve figured, “Hey, why not start a tour business to help bring the book to life?”

There was only one other dedicated pizza tour business in Chicago, and a lot of pizza … not to mention a lot of visitors passing through.

He knew that Chicago pizza had been reduced to the deep-dish and stuffed cliches. But hold the pepperoni—there’s more to midwest pizza than only deep-dish and stuffed.

What about thin? Tavern? Artisanal? Neapolitan? Roman? Sicilian? Detroit? Steve dared to challenge the status quo with these questions. He estimated there were at least 10 distinct styles in his Chicago pizza roundup.

So, he decided to launch a weekly tour that highlighted these differences, showing guests four styles of pizza in three hours.

He started with a Saturday bus tour to four neighborhoods. Next, he added three walking tours that each focused on a single neighborhood.

Throughout the tours, Steve dazzles guests with his encyclopedic knowledge of Chicago history while leading his groups into the belly of the beast… the fiery kitchens themselves to show people exactly how the pies are made.

Here, one can expect to engage in lively discussions with the owners and gain a better understanding of the families behind the sauce.

So far, business has been pizza-rific with Steve adding five tour guides to the mix. This salty bunch are affectionately referred to as "doughcents” (experts who know Chicago pizza and would love to tell you all about it). They were trained by Steve and help lead other tours, as well as private events.

In the colder months he offers bus tours only (after all, this is Chicago we’re talking about). When warmer weather returns in the spring, he’ll bring back the walking tours as well as a 3rd Thursday Pizza Crawl.

What’s next for Pizza City USA Tours? Steve’s considering a 2nd edition of his book, as well as working towards consistent sell-out tours. Once he achieves that, he’d like to add another walking tour. That would be a slice of heaven.



MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:

  • Pizza City USA Tours: Take a slice out of Chicago's pizza scene—learn more over on Steve's website!

SEE ALSO:

Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,

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Quote of the Day
"It’s important to get media placements. If no one knows about your offering or business, it doesn’t matter how good it is. People have to hear about you."
—Steve Dolinsky #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau