A-Tisket, A-Tasket, A Trendy Catered Basket
Outdoor dining parties
Picnics are receiving an upgrade. They are going beyond the basic picnic baskets, red-and-white checkerboard tablecloths, paper plates, and napkins.
Instead elegant china, charming cloth napkins, and luxurious blankets are spread with tailored menus and charcuterie boards filled with gourmet meats and cheeses.
You can settle yourself on a comfy blanket surrounded by fluffy tasseled pillows. A personally decorated table is adorned with fresh-cut flowers and romantic candlelight. Trendy picnicking is now available to celebrate a special occasion or just take a relaxing break with friends or family in style. The best part: It can be catered to what you want.
MICHELLE BETHEA (above), of Elaborate Outings, jumped on the trend.
While browsing online, she saw a video with a decorated small table outside that “caught her eye.” She could not get the image out of her mind and set out to not only recreate the setting but turn it into a business.
For BRITANY RAWLINS, of Seaside Charcuterie, branching out with picnics was a natural choice. She started her company with friends offering customized charcuterie boards, but with a love of the beach and entertaining, combining the three seemed like the perfect business idea.
The type of food can make or break a picnic, and both Bethea and Rawlins realize this. Once a specialized menu has been decided, Bethea collaborates with local companies to provide deliciously easy entrees, special appetizers, or vegan and healthy options.
“I specifically ask for dishes that do not need to be warmed for the sake of outdoor eating,” Bethea says. “I make sure they don’t include a kitchen or microwave.”
Rawlins makes sure her clients are getting exactly what they want in the way of meat, cheeses, or fruits. “We create a standard charcuterie board and allow our clients to customize exactly what they would like included,” she says.
Next up is the setting, which can be just as important as the food.
Luckily, Wilmington offers an ideal backdrop, and both Bethea and Rawlins take advantage of this. There is, of course, the beach but also plenty of parks and gardens. Popular spots range from Wrightsville Beach, Greenfield Lake, and Battleship Park to your own backyard.
Rawlins will even take it a step further.
“We will travel along the coast of North Carolina, design new picnic setups, and supply custom charcuterie boards,” she says.
Also taking advantage of Wilmington’s coastal scenery is Picnic Raleigh, which also offers events in Wilmington.
Co-owner ERIKA CALLEJAS points out the challenges of picnicking on the beach.
“As beautiful as they are, they take quite a bit of work to set up,” Callejas says. “From finding parking on busy summer days to hauling our picnic equipment through the sand, it can be tough, but the results are most definitely worth it.”
Of course, the one question on everyone’s mind is the weather. There are always backup plans in place.
“As it gets cold or if it rains, I am able to use The Self-Love Museum on Eastwood Road,” Bethea says about the DIY photo studio and interactive museum. “I also give customers an opportunity to have a backup place if they prefer.”
Rawlins is prepared as well. “In the event of inclement weather, we offer indoor picnics.” So what’s behind the trend of glam picnics? Bethea has a quick answer. “The pandemic, definitely,” she says. “It’s a way to get outside and be safe. It’s something different, and people love trying new things that work.”
And it seems to be working.
Picnic Raleigh has been up and running since early spring of 2020 and has grown ever since. “After debating on whether it was too soon to open a new location, we took a leap of faith and opened up Picnic Wilmington in January of this year. We’ve gotten great feedback up to date,” Callejas says.
Since Rawlins started offering picnics, she has scheduled one a week. “I have done at least thirty so far,” she says.
A lot of time and effort are put into place crafting each event to make it memorable and unique. “I consider each picnic as if it were for me and how I’d want to feel if I were experiencing it,” Bethea says.
As much as it is satisfying planning and coordinating each event, what is even more meaningful is the end result. “This business,” Rawlins says, “has allowed me the opportunity to witness firsthand surprise dates, engagements, birthday parties, and more.”
To view more of photographer Madeline Gray’s work, go to madelinegrayphoto.com.
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