We have launched Foodie Guides for four branch lines to highlight food businesses along each route that champion local produce and sustainability, and to inspire rail travel to the area.
Devon and Cornwall are lucky enough to have some of the best natural food resources in the country, with Cornwall renowned for its fish and seafood and Devon known for its high quality dairy produce.
What’s more, the counties’ railways offer a great way to reach many top eateries and food retailers.
The Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership aimed to take advantage of this by creating a series of branch line Foodie Guides (read them here). By showcasing excellent and award-winning businesses and colourful foodie events, the Partnership set out to inspire more journeys, raise the profile of the railway, engage local businesses and support the local economy in branch line destinations.
What we did
In 2017-2018 the Partnership produced guides for the Maritime and Looe Valley Lines in Cornwall and the Tarka and Avocet lines in Devon.
Businesses were chosen to appear in the guide specifically based on their commitment to and support of local produce, producers and food sustainability. This meant not only that the guides automatically supported a wide range of local businesses and the local economy, but also that the visitor would be experiencing something unique to the area.
The guides particularly aimed to feature places that only locals know or are tucked away. By working with the local town centre management and economic regeneration teams in each of the areas, local knowledge helped to select businesses that the average visitor may not stumble upon.
The same was true of the events and markets featured, such as the pop-up pizza place that operates next to Umberleigh station on the Tarka Line once a week.
149,000 leaflets were produced using quality food images throughout. Each guide was also reproduced as a responsive webpage on the Partnership’s website so that the guides can be comfortably read on a PC, tablet or mobile phone.
The promotion of the guides also included a range of other online and traditional media. Adverts were placed in Great British Food magazine, including an editorial piece detailing ’14 Delicious things to do in Cornwall’, and in regional magazines such as Devon and Cornwall Living.
A launch event was held for each guide. On the Maritime Line (Truro-Falmouth), the launch saw the Partnership joined by two presenters from Radio Cornwall. Local food and leisure editor Lee Trewhela also asked the Partnership to produce a piece about places to eat along the line. The piece ran as a double-page spread in the local newspaper’s What’s On pages and online. The story was shared on the Partnership’s Facebook page, reaching 72,000 people. It also proved to be the Partnership’s most popular blog post of 2017.
Local food writer Martin Hesp also wrote a two-page piece in regional newspaper the Western Morning News all about the Tarka Line and the foodie guide, including a signature recipe from one of the restaurants featured.
Another element of the promotion has been linking in with Great Western Railway and setting up competitions using local businesses. Two competitions have been arranged so far with GWR, one for the Maritime Line which was themed around the Falmouth Oyster Festival and one for the Tarka Line which offered a weekend stay at the foodie Broomhill Art Hotel.
The GWR e-newsletter has a readership of over one million people and the coverage for the businesses involved was fantastic. The Barnstaple competition received more than 7,500 entries, and the Falmouth competition more than 5,000.
Finally, and most recently, this year’s Community Rail in the City event saw the Partnership work with Falmouth Town Team to promote Falmouth as a destination, including its great food businesses. 1,000 of the foodie guides were handed out in special free gift bags which also had free Cornish food tasters inside.
The event at Paddington was a great opportunity for the Town Team to promote Falmouth but also to forge stronger links with their local businesses.
Throughout the campaign, the Partnership has been committed to two-way communication – recognising that locals and visitors alike will have their own foodie recommendations in each location. Both the print and online versions of the guides have sections inviting readers to send in their own top tips for where to eat and buy great local food.
Social media was also used as a way of encouraging interaction. A planned social media calendar was put together at the start to get maximum coverage, especially on Facebook where the Partnership now has more than 10,000 followers. This linked in with national food days and weeks, such as Great British Food Fortnight, and saw many foodie enthusiasts commenting and sharing the posts with their friends and family.
The project has exceeded the expectations of the Partnership, particularly with the positive response from the local media and journalists.
Great Western Railway has been particularly receptive to the idea of the competitions and more are planned for this year. Smaller regional competitions are also in the pipeline to be run locally by the Partnership.
Local stakeholders have talked of businesses seeing increased trade and the landlady of the Royal Oak at Perranwell, featured in the Maritime Line guide, said:
“It’s been great for us having that extra advertising, particularly as our area is out of the way of the coast and many traditional attractions. It’s great that travellers can explore from The Maritime Line; stopping on the way from Truro to Falmouth or vice versa; for a spot of lunch, dinner or even just a pint.”
As the guide advertises local businesses, such as ours, and reaches all the local surrounding holiday accommodation, we feel more visitors now come to our pub for food and refreshments.
Nigel Mitchell of the Galley Restaurant in Topsham said:
“May I congratulate you on the new Avocet Line Foodie Guide, it looks terrific. We are a very small independent operation and as such marketing is limited.”