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How Alaskan Sights & Bites Became Anchorage’s Culinary Adventure

Written by:

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

How Alaskan Sights & Bites Became Anchorage’s Culinary Adventure

Daniel L. Morris has blended his passion for travel, food, and storytelling to create Alaskan Sights & Bites with his brother in the heart of Anchorage, Alaska. This unique tour company offers a delicious and immersive way to explore the city. Daniel has navigated the challenges of starting and growing a business while ensuring each tour is a memorable experience. In this interview, he shares insights into his inspiration, the intricacies of his business, and the future of Alaskan Sights & Bites.

Inspiration Behind Alaskan Sights & Bites

SBS – What inspired you to start a business centered around food and sightseeing tours in Anchorage?

Daniel – Couchsurfing.com is a website that matches travelers (couch surfers) with local people (hosts) who offer to let the traveler(s) stay for free in their homes. The idea is that friendships and connections are forged through the exchange of culture, ideas, and travel, and you get to broaden your view of the world.

Ten years ago, I was one of the top hosts in Anchorage, Alaska, two years in a row. I hosted well over 100 guests from every corner of our planet. I LOVED showing off my home state to travelers. I took them sightseeing and out on the town to restaurants and bars. I spent thousands of dollars hosting these beautiful people, and after a while, I thought to myself, “I should really be getting paid for this.” My brother/business partner met his now wife through couchsurfing.com, so now I make the joke that my brother got a wife, and I got a $10,000 bill. We love meeting new people, traveling, and being able to show off our beautiful state.

Many years later, I worked in inside sales for a multi-million dollar company, a company that I had worked my butt off for five years, coming in early and staying late. Our department was making record sales every single month. To thank us, our management team took us out to a $20 lunch while bragging about the department’s accomplishments. I had trouble paying my rent because of inflation during COVID-19, and they offered me a cheeseburger for all my hard work. I was infuriated, broke, and at my wit’s end, so instead of struggling to get by, my brother and I made the decision to go out on our own and start a business. 

Curating Unique Tour Experiences

SBS – How do you choose the locations and foods featured on your tours?

Daniel – Anchorage is a tough place to run a food tour business. It’s not a large city by population, and the municipality is about the size of the entire state of Delaware. That makes the logistics of building a food tour business and finding restaurants that meet our quality standards, are open on the day and times we need them, are within a radius where the tour can be done in a reasonable amount of time, and are willing to have us is quite the challenge.

We start making a list of all the places that meet these criteria, then walk in, explain who we are and what we do, and then ask to speak with a manager. The first season was tough because only a few of them had worked with a food tour company before. After we were able to establish relationships with some restaurants in the first year and build our reputation, it became easier. As more and more “big name” restaurants came on board, it became easier to recruit new ones.

Overcoming Initial Challenges

SBS – What challenges did you face in the early stages of establishing your tour business?

Daniel – Oh wow, there are too many to count. We had never operated a business before, had never been on a food tour, and had no idea what we were doing, so we made it up as we went along. We didn’t know the right questions to ask, didn’t know what we didn’t know, and were on a shoestring budget. Many, many mistakes were made in the beginning, such as hiring the wrong marketing company, website builders, and business consultants. I’ve learned that there are many shady people out there who claim to be able to help but, in reality, are con artists, fakes, or just really good at convincing themselves and others that they provide value.

To put it simply, the biggest challenges we face were ignorance, naivety, and a lack of capital. We overcame these things by having unbreakable determination, persistence, and a solid work ethic that we learned from our parents.

Balancing Business and Passion

SBS – How do you balance business operations with your personal passion for travel and storytelling?

Daniel – I get to do storytelling every single day.

I haven’t had a vacation in three years. I gave up my personal life, savings, travel, and the security of regular pay/benefits in order to build this company. I was willing to sacrifice five years to build my dream. Will it be worth it? I still don’t know, but I will never be that guy who talked and dreamed but never took action. I hope that by the five-year mark, we will have built our company to the point where I can work six months in Alaska and then spend the rest of the year somewhere warm with a beach, a cold drink in my hand, and surrounded by interesting people.

Storytelling is a fundamental part of our business; we do it on every single tour. There is no need for me to balance it with my personal interests because they are combined.

Memorable Moments on Tour

SBS – Can you describe a particularly memorable moment or tour that stands out in your career?

Daniel – I don’t know if I can point to a particular moment, but I will say this: I never considered myself to be smart, successful, or capable of big things. I wouldn’t say that I had low self-esteem, but I also didn’t think I was anything special — until I started a business. When I realized our company was having some moderate success and the concept was proven, my confidence skyrocketed. I realized that by building this business, I had proven I was capable of success in life. It changed my worldview. I was no longer just the “entertaining brother.” It didn’t matter if the business was a success or a failure. I knew I had it in me to make big moves and big things happen. I am more than enough.

Ensuring High-Quality Experiences

SBS – How do you ensure a consistent and high-quality experience for your customers on different types of tours?

Daniel – At first, it was a lot of trial and error to find what worked well. Then, it became about hiring the right people with the right personalities to guide our tours and providing them with in-depth training and support. It comes down to monitoring feedback and acting on it when we determine changes need to be made.

Effective Marketing Strategies

SBS – What strategies have you found effective in marketing your tours to both locals and tourists?

Daniel – We hired an amazing marketing company named Tourism Marketing Agency (TMA) out of the UK that specializes in tour companies. They handle everything related to marketing and advertising. We trust them, which leaves us free to work on other things. I don’t know much about their process, but I know they have worked on our website’s SEO and do a lot of Facebook advertising.

Adapting to Industry Changes

SBS – How has your business adapted to changes in the tourism industry, especially with shifts in travel due to global events like the COVID-19 pandemic?

Daniel – We started our company just as the pandemic was ending, so we did not have to deal with the trials and tribulations that older tour companies had to endure.

Since we are new, we haven’t had to make any changes to keep up with the times. The exception to that is the development of AI, like ChatGPT. This is fundamentally changing how humans interact with the world, and it will have very dramatic effects on the tour and travel industry, and it will happen quicker than imagined. Staying on top of these developments is vital for any business, and, to be honest, I’m not as prepared as I should be.

The Role of Customer Feedback

SBS – What role do customer reviews and feedback play in shaping your tours and business decisions?

Daniel – We measure success and monitor customer satisfaction based on reviews on Google and Viator. We also constantly speak with our eatery partners to get their feedback on how the customers are reacting to our guides and their impression of the success of the tours, and we constantly try to improve. We don’t shy away from feedback. We encourage it and tackle criticism head-on.

Supporting Local Businesses

SBS – How do you support and promote local businesses through your tours?

Daniel – Our model is heavily dependent on the partnerships we have developed and are developing with local eateries. If an eatery is not locally-owned, we do not take our tours there. A substantial amount of our costs go to locally-owned eateries, which helps the local economy. Eventually, we will get to a point where we are giving back to the local community with charity, but we don’t have the revenue yet to do so.

Future Plans for Alaskan Sights & Bites

SBS – What are your future plans for expanding or diversifying the tours offered by Alaskan Sights & Bites?

Daniel – Within a few years, we will expand into multi-day tours with large groups. We will highlight great Alaskan food from all over the state and give our customers real Alaskan experiences. Too often, visitors to our state are herded around like cattle from inauthentic experience to inauthentic experience. We aim to change that. It will come with a cost, but it will be the essence of Alaska.

Advice for Aspiring Tour Entrepreneurs

SBS – What advice would you give to someone looking to start a similar tour-based business in a different location?

Daniel – Many people talk endlessly about their dreams of traveling, starting a business, or trying different career paths, but they never muster the courage to try anything. They find excuse after excuse for why it won’t work. They don’t have the money or funding, the time is not right, they don’t have the right education, they are too tired or busy… Blah, blah, blah. They are in love with the idea of being a world traveler or entrepreneur but likely will never be one. You will never have enough money, the time will never be right, you can learn as you go, and you’ll always be tired and busy. To be an entrepreneur, you must not only dare to dream; you must dare to take action. You must take control of your own destiny and not rely on “the perfect moment” to appear from nowhere.

Measuring Business Success

SBS – How do you measure the success of your tours and business overall?

Daniel – Profit.


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How Alaskan Sights & Bites Became Anchorage’s Culinary Adventure