When the coronavirus pandemic put a hold on travel, it didn’t curtail the ingenuity of NTA member Theresa Nemetz. Her company, Milwaukee Food Tours, normally offers walking and motorcoach tours of the city as well as receptive services and step-on guide assistance. But with the COVID crash, Nemetz no longer had work—or revenue—to keep her staff and tour guides working.
So she cooked up an idea.
“Our entire team has always worked remotely, but as I saw friends and fellow tour operators struggling with what a work-from-home day looks like, I realized that I could offer care packages for their employees who were working remotely,” Nemetz says. “Over the course of a weekend, I contacted many of the food manufacturers that we showcase on our tours to ask them if they would like to be included in the care packages.”
By Monday, the staff was ready to roll out care packages—named Pretzel Snack Attack, Coffee Break, and Chocolate Self Care Kit—and within minutes of sending an e-blast, they received their first order.
Up and running now for several weeks, Nemetz and another staffer prepare packages for local delivery and national shipping, and, three days a week, a team of four to six tour guides and bus drivers makes deliveries to Greater Milwaukee homes.
“We normally have three full-time staff, including me, plus two part-time staff members who plan trips and make reservations,” Nemetz says. “Now only two of us are working on the fulfillment of care packages, but we have been able to use the profits to ensure that everyone on the team has remained on the payroll.”
With more than 750 (and counting) care kits delivered locally, Milwaukee Food Tours is also getting traction with national sales and is adding two more options, one for Mothers’ Day and another titled School’s Out for Summer.
Nemetz is concerned that if travel remains grounded or, at best, sluggish, she will be unable to provide her company’s most popular group tour, Christmas Around Milwaukee Bakery Bus. So she already has plans to launch a Bakery Bus in a Box kit that will feature treats from Milwaukee’s many ethnic bakeries.
“I never really envisioned myself selling products, but this new business model is working, and it allows us to stay operational,” Nemetz says. “Not only are we able to avoid furloughing our full-time staff, we’re also spending money with the many vendors that count on our tour group visits.
“It all just feels positive.”
To get more details, email Nemetz or visit milwaukeefoodtours.com/mke-care-packages or traveldeliciously.com/quarantine-care-kits. (Travel Deliciously, also owned by Nemetz, packages domestic and international travel.)
For more travel industry resources on COVID-19 click here.
Top photo: Theresa Nemetz
Photo by Milwaukee Food Tours