The goal was to put the name of the restaurant in the bus driver’s head, says Mr. Priftakis, an OBJ/Ottawa Chamber of Commerce Forty Under 40 recipient in 2012.
“If people are looking for somewhere to eat, the bus driver can say, ‘I know a place. I’ll bring you guys.’”
During the tour high season in spring and summer, the restaurant hosts 50 to 60 tour buses a week. Its highest mark was 23 buses in a single day.
Appealing to tour groups is a boon for a restaurant because it brings in considerable numbers of patrons all at one time. It provides a stream of recurring revenue because satisfied tour operators will use the business again and again.
Mr. Priftakis says a typical tour group can leave the restaurant in less than an hour, because he co-ordinates the cooking schedules to have all the food ready.
Representatives from Le Buffet des continents go to trade shows to woo the big tour groups. Additionally, Mr. Priftakis says his membership with Ottawa Tourism gives him access to the local agency’s “fam” or familiarization tours, in which tourism agencies (including heads of tour operators) will come to the city to scout potential destinations for groups. Mr. Priftakis offers these representatives free meals at his restaurant.
For local tour operators, the parameters for including a restaurant can vary from the history of a particular establishment to its location.
Haunted Walks, for example, will only include a restaurant on its tour if the story has a haunted tale behind it that can be validated through history books or other means.
Sometimes a restaurant will be reluctant to be included on the tour, says Glen Shackleton, the founder of Haunted Walks and a Forty Under 40 recipient from 2007.
“My business is made a little more complicated (in) that we talk about the haunted side of things,” Mr. Shackleton jokes.
“Not every place is 100 per cent certain that it’s a good idea to have a reputation for being haunted, but every business that has worked with us has benefited from it.”
The company’s main stops in Ottawa are at the Courtyard Restaurant, Chateau Lafayette and D’Arcy McGee’s.
From the tour operator’s perspective, the pub walk would be impossible without establishments willing to participate. Restaurants and pubs also sponsor prizes or appear in media, on occasion, with Haunted Walks.
D’Arcy McGee’s is the business that has the longest standing with Haunted Walks, Mr. Shackleton says. The pub assists by allowing tours to start at the bar, and therefore becomes the beneficiary of patrons who choose to eat there before tours begin.
Similarly, UrbanQuest, which bills itself as “a taste of the Amazing Race,” encourages patrons of its tours to go to featured restaurants after the tour, says Kelly Liu, the firm’s business development manager.
The company, which won an Ottawa Tourism award for new company of the year in 2010, gives scavenger hunt-style “quests” to small groups of people who seek out landmarks in the city according to the descriptions UrbanQuest provides.
“When at the end of your quest you input the final answer, that’s when you see which restaurant you’ll eat at,” says Ms. Liu.
Most of UrbanQuest’s tours include an option to dine in a restaurant at the end; about five to 10 businesses in the ByWard Market and in Westboro have signed up to accept reservations.