Let’s Take it Outside!
Providing Your Customers with Picnic Meals
With winter behind us, it’s time to go al fresco. The cool crowd is the outdoor crowd, and this summer features an enormous batch of festivals, concerts and sporting events on the calendar, all packed with hungry, thirsty diners in waiting. How to get in on the outdoor action? A well-appointed picnic basket or to-go meal goes beyond the additional revenues, but can lure new customers inside your doors as well. We checked in with a few places across the country that have found appetizing ways to tag along with specially packaged and priced dining experiences-to-go.
THE POP-UP PICNIC
- Austin, TX
Always a step ahead in Austin, the foodie culture there has transformed the all-American picnic into a crowd-sourcing culinary destination event. Pop-Up Picnic is held each April to coincide with National Picnic Day. For the past three years, local restaurants, caterers and gourmet markets have packed hundreds of baskets, wagons and coolers for the culinary-inclined outdoor set, while raising money for the local Waller Creek Conservancy. Pop-Up Picnic goers can order picnic-for-two provisions from a list of about a dozen different providers who have gone to great creative lengths to make this community fundraising event both memorable and delicious. Ranging from $25 to $100, everything from Radio Flyer martini wagons and charcuterie trays to re-usable cooler bags and cocktails are available. The event’s growing popularity has sparked some of its providers to create their own picnic programs. One of the best came from Pop-Up Picnic pioneer Antonelli’s Cheese Shop, whose owners took the concept on the road by using social media to announce “spontaneous” picnics, and donate proceeds from sales of their charcuterie goodies to local charities.
Art and Soul
- Washington DC
- VENUE: Picnics on the National Mall
Brimming with southern hospitality and folk art, Art and Soul’s renowned Chef-Owner Art Smith believes in creating a food experience that brings people together.
Art and Soul is a short walk from the D.C.’s National Mall and the Tidal Basin, and the restaurant’s famous southern-inspired, locavore cuisine is the perfect accompaniment for a picnic under the cherry blossoms, or for al fresco dining on the rooftop pool. A two-day pool pass can be reserved with the picnic lunch for an additional fee.
“We are well known locally for our Famous Fried Chicken and guests kept telling us they wanted to take it on a picnic to the mall, or pick it up on the way back from work for a backyard picnic,” explains Tricia Barba, events manager. “We thought, why not put something together that’s simple to order and carry?”
For $40, Chef Douglas Alexander artfully packs an al fresco dining experience for two in a reusable picnic bag. Along with their Famous Fried Chicken, biscuits, coleslaw, potato salad, cookie and cherry soda, Chef Doug adds a little surprise like an extra dessert or new side dish. The Art and Soul logo decorates the bag, attracting new customers, and a little added social media spin encourages patron to take photos of their favorite picnic spot under the cherry blossoms via #LiaisonBlossoms on Twitter and Instagram.
Di Pescara Restaurant
- Northbrook, IL
- VENUE: Ravinia Festival
If you plan to visit North America’s oldest outdoor music festival this summer, you’ll want to have the perfect “it” accessory on your arm: Di Pescara’s Ravinia picnic bag.
Just north of Chicago, the widely diverse 140-night Ravinia summer concerts are nestled in a 35-acre lush lawn circled by trees, bejeweled by moonlight and the candlelight of group picnics. Picnic set ups reach nearly competitive levels and the di Pescara picnic bag is the prize. For just $15.95 per person, Ravinia guests who order 24-hours ahead will enjoy salted edamame and the Di Pescara chopped salad; a side of summer vegetable pasta salad; a main course choice of one of five different sushi rolls or a sandwich choice of roast chicken, caprese, tuna or roast turkey; with a finale of a homemade chocolate chip cookie.
“This is our third year and it has evolved a little each year,” explains Krista Morotz, events manager for the Lettuce Entertain You restaurant. “We get a lot of repeat customers, and when other people at Ravinia see the Di Pescara picnic bag, they call us next time they head to Ravinia.”
The suburban Chicago-based Di Pescara restaurant enjoys a broad following for its meticulously selected seafood and modern take on traditional dishes. The picnic bag program has grown primarily through word of mouth, popular not only for the cuisine but the ease of ordering.
- Los Angeles, CA
- VENUE: The Hollywood Bowl
It’s just like Los Angeles to be the trend setter. When it comes to outdoor festival cuisine, Doughboys Café has had it in the bag for more than 10 years. Doughboys Café is a well-established L.A. brand with a reputation for serving oversized portions, freshly baked breads and delicious desserts.
“The owner goes to concerts frequently at the Hollywood Bowl and saw an opportunity,” explains Derek Peyrot, Doughboys’ manager. “We sell about 20 picnic bags every month during the concert season.”
For $45, Doughboys provides patrons with the perfect cuisine for a night under the stars. Doughboys’ rustic basket packed with a tablecloth, plates and service for two: drinks, salad, baguette and four spreads, a sandwich, side of fruit, and dessert bar and cookie.