The sun is shining and picnic season has finally arrived. Picnics have popped up as a recent catering trend, as many clients are looking to take traditional indoor events or small gatherings and host them outdoors. Picnics are a great way to take advantage of nice weather and unique outdoor spaces to create memorable moments for guests. Whether your client is looking to celebrate a birthday, company outing, or holiday, a picnic is an ideal way to elevate any gathering.

Why Are Picnics Popular?

Picnics can be enjoyed by family, friends, and coworkers alike. Outdoor dining and events have become popular amongst consumers, as many find themselves feeling safer enjoying a meal outdoors rather than indoors. Spending time outdoors can reduce exposure to viruses, as the air is free-flowing and there's more space for guests to freely gather. Picnics are a great addition to the outdoor dining trend and can be customized to fit a client’s vision for an event.

If a client is looking to host an intimate gathering outdoors, a picnic can be a much more personalized experience compared to a restaurant. You can create themed menus, color palettes, decorations, and more to truly customize a picnic. Depending on the venue chosen, clients are able to host more people at a lower cost than they would be able to at an indoor venue. With nice weather approaching and seasonal flavors, catered picnics are an enjoyable event for all.

What To Keep In Mind When Catering A Picnic

If you’ve decided to add picnics to your catering offerings, you’ll have to be mindful of certain elements to successfully cater a picnic. Catering a picnic is different from the way you would serve guests at an indoor venue. If you’ve catered events at outdoor venues previously, you know that you must create a menu that travels well and find ways to keep foods fresh despite the weather or lack of a traditional kitchen setup.

Below are some tips to follow when catering a picnic:

  • Be mindful of the venue: Do some research prior to the event to find out how your company can set up their catering station, if on-site catering is possible, where meals can be served, and other essential details.
  • Prepare meals overnight: Outdoor spaces can be limited, so be sure to get as many of the appetizers, entrees, and desserts prepared before the day of the event. It will be much easier to arrange or serve meals for guests if they’ve been prepared beforehand.
  • Find ways to store meals: Properly transporting meals to a catered picnic is the only way to ensure foods arrive intact and are ready to be served. Consider investing in disposable containers, drink carriers, food pan carriers, and other portable catering equipment.

5 Ways To Cater A Picnic

At first glance, picnics seem like the perfect causal event you can easily cater. However, catering a picnic requires you to step outside the routine of catering for traditional indoor events. You will have to take into account the venue, weather, and menu for the picnic your catering amongst other factors. If you’re looking to get into catering picnics this summer season, below are some helpful ideas and tips to get you started on picnic-friendly catering.

Go For The Theme

When catering a picnic, it would be best to meet with your client beforehand to get a feel for the theme of the event. Picnics can be dressed up or down, and there is a range of themes your clients will want to choose from. From safaris to mermaids, to around the world or sports, there is a celebration style that fits every picnic.

Use your catering skills to complement the theme of your client’s picnic. You can discuss a special menu that would match the theme or create a specialized cocktail menu that reflects your client’s vision for the picnic. Be sure to find ways to include the color palette of the event in your catering selection. Use the color palette in your drinks, desserts, utensils, or seasonal menu flavors to highlight the theme. If your catering company offers additional decorations like signs or lighting, discuss with clients if they would like to look into a themed decoration package for an extra charge.

On-Site Catering

Although outdoor picnics typically means you and your staff’s traditional kitchen setup might be out of reach for the day, it doesn’t mean that on-site catering isn’t an option. If your client is hosting a sports-themed or Mediterranean-themed picnic, they might request on-site grilling or catering stations. If your company wants to include an on-site catering package for clients, it’s important to be prepared to work with the constraints of an outdoor venue.

Do some research prior to the event to figure out where you’d be able to set up an on-site catering station for the picnic. You’ll want to find an area with enough room to host your catering station. Portable kitchen equipment like hot food pan carriers, grills, portable stovetops, and other supplies are ideal for cooking at an outdoor event. Your portable kitchen should be equipped to withstand all weather conditions. If you find that preparing meals on-site won’t be possible for the event, discuss with your client to find an alternative solution before the event.

Handheld Menu Items

Simplify extensive catering menus to meet the causal, easy atmosphere of outdoor picnics. Most of your clients will request foods that are easy to enjoy outdoors and aren’t as formal as a traditional indoor luncheon. This makes it important to create a menu full of handheld food options that clients can enjoy without worrying about messes.

Handheld menu items are the perfect choice for picnics. Foods like tacos, vegetable skewers, sandwiches, burgers, wings, and other finger foods are great options. Clients might want to serve their guests personalized portions instead of a buffet-style meal, and handheld foods are perfect for that kind of request. Meet with your clients to discuss what kinds of handheld appetizers, entrees, and desserts they would want at their picnic. As always, be sure to include utensils for guests who prefer to use them while dining.

Provide Venue Options

If your company has already catered several outdoor picnics, you might have a list of venues you prefer to work at. The location, enjoyment of clients and their guests, and how easy it was to set up are all important factors to consider when thinking of venues. Although each outdoor venue in your area offers its own charm, not all of them are friendly to caterers.

If your client is looking to host an outdoor picnic, but is unsure of what location they want, provide them with a list of venue options. Indecisive clients will appreciate having a range of options to choose from, especially if they hadn’t found any on their own. Venues that are adaptable to caterers and a nice location for guests to enjoy themselves are ones that should be featured on your list of options.

Lunch Boxes

Not all clients might want on-site catering stations or have staff serve them at their event. If your clients are looking for hands-off catering during their event, prepared lunch boxes are the way to go. Lunch boxes are a versatile, off-site catering approach for picnics that can be easily prepared the day before an event. Depending on the theme of the picnic, you can even stylize your lunch boxes to reflect the color palette or accents of your client’s theme.

Lunch boxes can be filled with personalized portions of appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Meet with your clients to discuss how many lunch boxes they’ll need for their event and if they prefer for you to package courses together or in separate boxes. Disposable containers that offer lots of room to hold different kinds of foods or containers with built-in sections work best for lunch box style catering. Picnic-style lunch boxes can be arranged the day before an event or the morning of an event, and easily transported in a food carrier or portable refrigerator. When creating lunch boxes, be sure to choose foods that won’t go bad during storage or transportation. Guests will be delighted to sit down at their picnic and open a box full of delicious foods and sweets.