A group from Kit Check, a technology solutions company that helps hospitals manage inventory, walks on Middle Street during a tour of the Old Port. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

When Pam Laskey launched Maine Foodie Tours 13 years ago, it was a seasonal business, and one of only a handful of food tours in the country.

“I was several years ahead of the curve with this thing,” Laskey laughed, recalling lean and low-income days as the business found its footing for the first year or so.

Now known as Maine Day Ventures, Laskey’s company operates multiple food tours year round, with 14 guides on the ground in Portland and about 30 food and drink venue partners, along with additional tours in Bar Harbor, Boothbay Harbor and Kennebunkport. That Laskey’s tours took off in a food-crazy town like Portland is no surprise. But she has faced real challenges keeping business running since 2020.

“COVID was a game-changer for us,” she said. “It was very challenging. We tried to keep the tours outdoors as much as possible, but it was a terrible grind.”

Tour guide AJ Riseman of Maine Day Ventures samples Moxie with the group from Kit Check. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Laskey’s business model to that point depended on tourgoers going into various restaurants and bars along the route for tasting samples, and sometimes to sit and enjoy a chat with the owners or local patrons. “We have five to seven stops, and we definitely fill people up by the end of the tour,” she said.

But the pandemic forced her to scale back the food tours, focusing on the partner venues that could accommodate her groups outside, or prepare to-go samples. Laskey cut the maximum size of her tour groups from 14 to eight or 10 to make her customers feel safer.


Laskey wasn’t alone in struggling. Maine Food for Thought, after four years of food tours exploring the state’s farm-to-table food system, closed indefinitely last year, another pandemic casualty.

Still, Laskey said Maine Day Ventures had a busy 2021 despite the challenges. And this month, she said, they’ll be launching a new culinary shopping tour in Portland, with stops at venues like Heritage Seaweed on India Street, Cellar Door Winery on Middle Street, and the spice store Skordo on Fore Street.

Moreover, Maine Day Ventures’ two-hour bar-centric happy hour tours will expand to become two-and-a-half hour afternoon tasting tours with more emphasis on food.

Laskey is quick to note that her company’s offerings remain dependent on the state of the pandemic. She recently had a group of eight cancel a tour because of COVID infections.

“This year, things are better so far with the pandemic, but I don’t think we’re out of the woods yet,” she said.

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