Local Voice: Faizal Luttamaguzi, Entrepreneur

Local Voice: Faizal Luttamaguzi, Entrepreneur

In our series Local Voices, we’ll be introducing you to locals and some of their favourite things to do in Stockholm.

All photos by Lola A. Åkerström

Meet entrepreneur Faizal Luttamaguzi, founder of Stockholm Food Tours, which takes over 2,500 tourists on food walks between Stockholm restaurants. Faizal has deep insights into local restaurants and provide visitors with the best tips on how to experience Stockholm through its culinary scene.

Tell us a bit about your background

I was born in Uganda and was five years old when my family moved to Sweden. I’ve lived away for about eleven years including in New York working in business and marketing. I’m almost in my thirties so it felt like time for me to move home, buy some property, buy an apartment here, really start the next phase of my life. I’ve always been an individual who wants to understand why people choose red over blue and that never disappeared really.

I’d done a food tour in New York years ago and just loved the concept. I went as a customer. I loved the guy that took us to different places. I lived in New York, yet he took us to places I never heard of.

That guy was charming. He was fascinating. He tells you a story as you walk down an alley that looks very shady. You’re like, “Okay is this safe?” Then you walk down and a little hatch opens up and there’s a guy with a burrito and it’s the best burrito you’ve ever had. You try the $3 burrito and it’s fantastic.

This was amazing. You’re on this tour with people from Argentina, Brazil, and Russia, and it’s just a melting pot of people there for the weekend and food experience. They were happy to be there and joy flowed.

I walked away from that tour on a high. It sat in the back of my head for many years. I wanted to know…

Could I build something that was just purely based on happiness and joy?

Then the food tour idea came back to me. I remembered that guy taking me around New York. What if I could do the same thing in Stockholm?

That was my whole premise.

People can sense passion…. How did you go about creating and promoting your food tours?

Exactly. I said to myself, “Okay, I guess I don’t need a PowerPoint presentation.” You walk into restaurants and hotels and introduce yourself. You’re genuine. You don’t send them emails. You walk through the door. Tell them what your thing is.

All the restaurants were like, “We’re in! Tell us when this starts.”

Suddenly, I have the restaurants ready. I said okay, that’s step one done. What’s step two? How am I going to get customers?

Most tourists obviously stay at hotels. When they’re ready to go out to eat somewhere, I just think of my own experience. If I go to a new city and I’m staying at a hotel, I usually go down to the reception and concierge. I say, “Listen, I want to try this and that , where should I go for this kind of food?”

So, I left flyers with concierges at various hotels and made various partners. My very first customers were a family of five from Wisconsin, USA!

Talking about passion, I love the way the tour has developed since then. We all have theories when we start something. My theory was that people are not about to pay me money to just guide them. You have gone out of your way to pay me money, so therefore it was vital for me to give them a world class experience

Going back to my very first customers, that was one of the best feedback I ever got right away.

When I finished the tour, the mom in the family looked at me and said, “That was the best tour I ever had.” I was caught off guard. Really? Why? Perplexed, I asked her why. “Why did you like it?!

She said, “you were so good at getting us to forget that we paid you money to tour us. Within 30 minutes, you made us feel like we came to the city, ran into a local, and became friends. Now you’re showing us your city. You did that very well. We’ve done a lot of tours around the world and you made us feel very at ease. You made us feel like we could come to your house. If you invited us to dinner right now, we would say yes because it feels like we know you now.”

That’s when I had my A-ha moment. That’s when I realized this was my unique selling point. Being very personable.

In terms of the business itself, how many people do you have working with you now?

Within three years, it went from an idea in my head to expanding to nine guides in Stockholm, five in Copenhagen, and three in Oslo. We run about two to three tours Monday through Saturday in each city.

What are a few of your favourite food stops in Stockholm?

I love Östermalms Saluhall because of the iconic history behind it. It’s a very personal food hall. You walk in there and you get personal with all the vendors. For anyone wanting to go, the price is a little higher than average but what you get in return is worth it…  good quality food and personal service and experience from all the vendors in there. That’s why I love it.

We’ve got Meatballs for the People. Definitely worth it with its great vibe. The restaurant Supper has a wonderful atmosphere and its Mexican/South American fusion food is amazing. The Jazz Brunch at Södra Teatern is one I recommend. There’s a tiny Iranian/Persian sandwich shop called Sundevich. Yes, they make sandwiches there. To die for. I also like the African restaurant, Mama Africa.

If you’ve ever been to the US, you’ve probably eaten genuine New York-style cheesecake. You’ve probably been to the Cheesecake Factory.

Well, the Cheesecake Palace here in Stockholm, I would say, is better.

Check out Stockholm Food Tours and sign up!

Do you know any local voices you’d love us to spotlight or would you love to share your voice and your Stockholm with us? Please get in touch.

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Author: Lola A. Åkerström

Lola Akinmade Åkerström is an award-winning writer, photographer, and travel blogger, and is also the Founder/Editor-in-chief of Slow Travel Stockholm. Her photography is represented by National Geographic Creative. She tweets at @LolaAkinmade.

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