Aug. 16, 2016 By Hannah Wulkan
Local entrepreneur Richard Mumith is expanding his Queens Food Tour business after winning $10,000 in the Queens Economic Development Corporation and Citi Foundation 10th Annual StartUP! Business Plan competition in May.
Mumith won the grant in the best “Community plan” category, since his business was deemed to be helpful to the Long Island City neighborhood. His plan was chosen along with two others out of a pool of 46 proposals.
Queens Food Tours currently offers walking tours through Long Island City by licensed New York City tour guides, which take about three hours and cover about 1.5 miles, with five food stops along the way.
Mumith chose each of the restaurants on the tour carefully, saying, “In a place like LIC with a new restaurant popping up every 24 hours, I had to choose by making sure that they have solid roots in LIC, the owners have a certain history with the neighborhood, the food is good and popular with the locals, and it has a unique and interesting story.”
Working with those criteria, Mumith created relationships and tasting menus with Manducatis Rustica, Woodbines Craft Kitchen, Alobar, Burger Garage, Cannelle Patisserie and Rockaway Brewing Company.
In addition to stopping at the food locations, the tour takes visitors through Gantry Plaza State Park, past PS1, and through Court Square, offering historical and cultural tidbits about Long Island City as they walk.
Winning the competition, however, has allowed Mumith to dream much bigger for his business than he ever expected. Thanks to the award, he has been able to envision taking his business full time, and has expanded the tour offerings from one day per week to four days per week, though he hopes to eventually expand to seven days a week. He also has broadened his marketing, and is eyeing other neighborhoods for expansion.
Though Queens Food Tours currently only offers the tour in LIC, Mumith hopes to eventually expand to Astoria, Jackson Heights, and Flushing, as he sees the potential in the incredible and unique food and history in those areas.
He is also considering offering specialty tours in Long Island City, such as a beer tour or a sweets tour. He also hopes to eventually work with local chefs to offer cooking classes.
Mumith views his business as not only an option for tourists, but for locals too. In fact, he said, about 90 percent of business so far has been from people from New York, who simply wanted to learn more about an area they didn’t know about, and eat some delicious food in the process.
He added that many of those people have since returned to the restaurants they first experienced on the tour, bolstering the local economy.
Queens Food Tours started as a seed of an idea when Mumith and a friend went on a food tour in Chicago several years ago. Mumith said that he realized that food tours offer an in-depth look at a city and culture in a short amount of time, and appeal to everyone regardless of interest, because “everyone has to eat.”
After his experience in Chicago, Mumith and his friend went on other food tours all over the country, and though they loved them, he explained, they all offered similar and somewhat bland food experiences.
Mumith realized that the most unique parts of Queens were the diverse roots and authentic, delicious food.
Mumith knew that Queens was looking to expand its tourism from his time working for City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz in her Forest Hills office, and said that he realized that “what we don’t have in skyscrapers, we make up in our plates.” That encouraged him to get the ball rolling almost two years ago on a food tour showcasing the most unique cuisines and historical sites of Queens.
He decided to enter the StartUP! Business Plan Competition to advance his concept.
The competition was an eight-month process, allowing local hopeful entrepreneurs to take four business seminars and write up a business plan.
Their plans were then blindly presented to panels of experts provided by both Citi Bank and the QEDC to determine the winners, according to the QEDC Director of Public Relations, Marketing & Tourism Rob Mackay.
The grant goes to three winners each year, in “food-based,” “innovation,” and “community” categories.
This past year more than 350 people received some technical training or help with their business plans, and 46 teams submitted business proposals to the competition.
Queens Food Tours can be booked through their website at http://www.queensfoodtours.com/, and private tours are also available.
The QEDC is about to start offering information sessions and classes for the 11th Annual StartUP! Business Plan Competition, and more information can be found at their website here: https://www.queensny.org/qedc/business/programs/startup/