This year, with people being encouraged to meet others outside, picnics have become a popular and pandemic-proof way to catch up with loved ones. Out of this has emerged an opportunity to make extra income, or even set up a whole new business, surrounding the pop-up picnic experience.
- Setting it up
- What services to offer
- What to include
- What to charge
- Getting the word out
- Additional Training
- A London picnic business
Firstly, you will need to establish a niche for your picnics.
Are you going to do a particular theme?
Or, perhaps, you may cater to each individual client depending on their preferences, or a particular occasion?
You may even pick a handful of occasions you want to specialise in. For example, hen dos, baby showers or birthdays.
Utilise photo sharing websites and begin to note down some set up ideas. Websites including Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr have thousands of photographs you can draw inspiration from. If you search ‘Picnics’, you’ll be thrust into a world you never knew existed. You can save these pictures to go back to as you begin to develop your ideas further. From these, you can decide particular concepts you want to include in your picnics, from the colour schemes and decor of your picnics, to the type of food and beverages you will serve.
Your set up doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. It’s beneficial to have a rummage in your local charity shops or at boot sales, to pick up low-cost decor and seating. Similarly, you could search second-hand websites such as eBay, Facebook Marketplace and even Freecycle and get unique pieces to give your picnics a special edge.
A key decision in the process is to decide how many people you are willing to cater to at one time. As you build your business, you may wish to start small. You may choose to only cater for up to six people at a time, and as you find your footing and become familiar with the process, you may choose to expand this number. This, of course, is entirely up to you and how comfortable you feel.
Finally, you should decide the location of your business. Are you going to provide picnics within a 2-mile radius of where you live? Are you willing to travel for clients? Again, this is up to you and dependent on access to transport and the ease of which you are able to get to a new location.
You could also begin to think about the type of service you’d like to offer to your clients. You may opt to offer the making, set up and removal of the picnic only, or you may choose to go the extra mile and offer your waiting services. For example, topping up people’s drinks, offering them hor’deurves and nibbles as they enjoy themselves. Additionally, you may opt to be a ‘host’ as such, organising games or quizzes for the guests.
Some picnic businesses aim to create an entire experience, rather than just a picnic. A fun idea could be to offer a ‘bottomless brunch’ for your guests. This could include unlimited top-ups of prosecco for a set amount of time. Some restaurants charge as much as £40 per head for 90 minutes of brunching fun. You could also cater to special occasions such as graduations, going the extra mile to provide graduation-themed decor, such as cupcakes decorated with graduation caps or banners reading ‘Class of 2021’, for example.
Starting with arguably the main part of a picnic (besides the prosecco!), it’s important to think about the type of food you will offer. Are you going to go for a traditional style picnic, with sandwiches, scotch eggs and strawberries? Or maybe you’re more inclined to deliver a ‘luxury’ picnic, making a proper meal with tear and share bread or a side salad. Perhaps you could mix and match, catering specifically to the requests of those organising the event.
Charcuterie boards are an easy way to incorporate a bit of luxury into your picnic. Mixed meats, cheese, olives, pickles, grapes, bread and crackers neatly organised on a large platter for people to pick and choose as they wish. Enjoyed with a nice glass of red or a bottle of bubbly, it’s an achievable way to offer something unique without breaking your budget.
It’s imperative your picnics look appealing. Not only for the sake of taking aesthetically pleasing photographs in order to draw in clientele, but to impress your guests, encourage them to use your services again in the future and wow them in a way that spreads the word about your business. As mentioned previously, your decor doesn’t have to break the bank. Search your local charity shops for cushions, blankets and even little coffee tables to create a unique and magical atmosphere.
It’s a good idea to have a base fee. This is used to cover the cost of food and the ‘rental’ of your décor, seating and utensils. A charge of £100 or so could be requested for groups of up to 6 people, with an extra £10 requested for every additional guest after that. Alternatively, you may want to charge per head and quote each client with a price dependent on their requirements.
Extra services and add-ons, such as occasion-specific decor, for example party hats or balloons, may incur extra costs. You may be asked to provide a birthday cake, some extra bubbly, party games or party favours, for which you could include additional charges.
The internet is your best friend. Creating a website or a social media page to offer and promote your services is a good place to start. Try to ensure your website has a review section, where people can leave comments about their experience. It could also have a star-rating scale so others can see how highly your business is rated by others.
Social media, particularly where you can share photos, is extremely useful. You can share beautiful photos of your picnics to catch the eye of potential clientele and encourage them to book your services. You may wish to invest in a good camera or editing software, to ensure your photos are high quality and appealing.
Do a trial run with your friends and family and ask for their honest feedback. Invite your loved ones to experience a complimentary picnic. Don’t go overboard on the spending, as you aren’t getting paid, but allow yourself to give enough of an experience so you can test the waters.
What did they like? Was there anything they weren’t so keen on? Ask them how much they’d be willing to pay for the experience, and whether there was anything they thought was missing. They may also give you constructive feedback on your hosting skills. Don’t take criticisms too personally. They will aid you in shaping and fine-tuning your picnics.
When your business is up and running, make sure to interact with your guests. Be friendly, polite and get to know them, building relationships through interactions that leave them with a long-lasting, positive impression. Thank them for their custom, make sure they have everything they need and ensure they’re enjoying the experience. Go above and beyond. High client satisfaction will lead to them using your services again, as well as telling others about you.
It’s not imperative to get any sort of training to start a pop-up picnic business, but it is a worthwhile investment, particularly if your business takes off. The Food Standards Agency offers free online courses in food allergen training, as well of loads of advice on food handling and safety. The Safer Food Group offers qualifications in food hygiene from £12, and Essential Food Hygiene also provides a range of fully accredited courses from £10. Having these will give your business more credibility, helping your clients feel reassured that their food is being made and handled to a correct standard.
We had the opportunity to interview Sarah Pearson, a seasoned cake baker and decorator. Always having a desire to be a party planner, she has recently turned her career decorating cakes into a new picnic business venture.
After years of putting her creative skills to good use, making beautifully crafted birthday cakes for friends and family, Sarah was asked to help out with a few children’s birthday parties in the summer months. These parties were located in local parks, in which the children would be given picnics and play in the sun together.
“My own daughter was born in winter, so I was never able to plan summer parties outside for her,” Sarah tells us. However, she loves the idea of giving children a wonderful picnic experience to remember. After chatting with another mum at the school gates, they created something wonderful – a pop-up picnic experience.
We asked Sarah how the idea began to develop. “I love to create, I love seeing people’s reactions, and I love helping people out, take the pressure off”, she tells us. “I threw a picnic party for a family last year and they had such an amazing time. They want me to do another party for them again this year. They have a newborn baby, so with me organising the picnic the pressure is taken off them”. You can tell she is passionate about what she does, and it’s refreshing. She continues, “I’m really excited and I have great belief in it”.
Sarah bought herself a trailer, which she uses to transport everything she needs for the picnics. This includes decorations, food and any extras requested by the clients, such as blankets. In terms of what she charges, there is a base fee, with an additional small fee per hour of the party. This pays for her time, as well as the set-up and clean-up of the picnic. How much to extra charge, depending on what each person wants to eat or drink, is also calculated.
She suggests it’s easier to work out a cost per person. Everyone is likely to want different items or have various dietary requirements. She caters to gluten, dairy and even sugar free diets. “If you cater to people’s needs and give them what they want, it’s easier to judge how much food you will need to buy for the picnic. There’s also far less waste that way,” she advises. “I’d also suggest creating a set menu if you can. This helps with calculating the costs as well as making the food preparation more manageable”.
She makes traditional picnic food mostly – sandwiches, sausages, carrot sticks – but is happy to go above and beyond. If a client wants pasta, she’s happy to make pasta. She doesn’t mind if someone wants to swap or change an item on the set menu. She wants her clients to be thrilled with the food they are served.
Sarah also caters to particular themes. “We are doing a mermaid themed party next week,” she gushes excitedly. With the help of Pinterest, she has been able to get creative, with sea themed decorations and fruit platters. Of course, there will be an expertly decorated mermaid birthday cake. She’s also excited to begin expanding her themes, looking to do afternoon tea options.
Although Sarah is currently based in the Hyde Park area of London, she is hoping to expand her business geographically. Similarly, although she has mainly done children’s birthday parties, she’s eager to branch out to adult parties and occasions. She’s flexible, and will host indoors if preferred, or if the weather doesn’t permit an outdoor event.
“I’ve done food hygiene courses previously, and I’m hoping to update these skills soon,” Sarah informs us. She is planning to start renting a kitchen space, meaning high standards must be met, and rules and regulations followed.
Finally, we chat about the future of the business. “Even just talking to you is making me excited about it all,” her tone is happy and upbeat. “We are looking to get an official name for the business and set up social media pages too”. She has a plethora of ideas, and having her own picnic business is a venture she genuinely enjoys.