"I really enjoying meeting our guests and getting to know them in person, sharing the energy, the outdoor lifestyle and the abundance of fabulous food!"
This week, we had a chat with the lovely Maree Sheehan, Director & Chief Guide from The Sydney Connection.
We spoke to her about what it was like running dining walks around Sydney, and what some of her best experiences were. She shared candidly about The Sydney Connection and left us with a few thoughts to ponder over about what it'd be like starting a similar business. Read on to find out more!
Hi Maree! Can you tell us a bit about how The Sydney Connection first started and what sparked this idea?
I started TSC in January 2013, after I had an international internet date with a guy called Oscar from Houston, Texas! After spending the day showing my guest all my favourite local haunts, Oscar complimented me on my unique tour guide style and suggested I do it as a living.
Initially I conducted food, fashion and design day-walks because these were the areas I had worked in and had a strong interest in but I soon realised that the food component was the most popular - from what guests mentioned in their reviews on Trip Advisor. So in August 2015 I changed the focus of the business to evening dining walks and have been very busy ever since!
What's the best part about organising such tours?
Getting paid to go out for dinner with new people! I also really enjoy meeting our guests - often after a short email relationship has been established - and getting to know them in person and share the energy, the outdoor lifestyle and the abundance of fabulous food, good service and cool décor trends that Eastside Sydney has to offer. I also love learning about their part of the world and which foods and wines they enjoy most, as well as introducing them to new food experiences.
Has there been any particular noteworthy moment in this business that has stuck with you since?
There have been many noteworthy moments: the English expats from the Arab Emirates who wanted to carry on after the dining walk finished - all the wives left for the hotel after our Gelato at Riva Reno telling me I could take their husbands for whisky! We ended-up at Pocket Bar - I left them to it at 11:30pm recommending they cross the road to Shady Pines; my first fifty dollar tip - gotta love American generosity; I am always grateful for the awesome reviews our guests write after experiencing a TSC dining walk.
What would you advise someone looking to start their own business like this?
Always reply to potential booking inquiries within 24hours.
Look after your suppliers - in our case the restaurants and small bars who show us great hospitality with wonderful locally produced food, great service and VIP treatment every time we dine with them. Cultivating great relationships with your stakeholders = great experiences for your guests.
Finally, can you leave us with any quotes to live by?
If you want advice ask for money; if you want money ask for advice.