Over the past few months, thanks to restricted access, sweeping location closedowns, a burgeoning longing for nature and get-togethers that conform to mandatory minimum distance requirements, picnicking has stepped into the limelight. And that’s exactly where it’s going to stay. Restaurants everywhere have adapted and expanded their range, at first because they had no choice, but later out of conviction.
“The demand is huge, even higher than last summer,” says Julia Kutas, for example. The university-trained art historian is the founder and mastermind of the hiddenkitchen team in Vienna. In the wake of the lockdowns, their to-go options were expanded to include specific picnic alternatives.
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Following holiday-themed picnic baskets for Valentine’s Day, Easter or Mother’s Day as well as their first attempts using stylish enamel buckets, Kutas is now offering a classic basket with daily specials from their two locations in Vienna’s city center, which are available for pre-order.
The refundable 40 euro deposit per basket is deliberately steep. It’s designed to ensure a high rate of returns. ” Recycling is key,” says Kutas. She created her first picnic kits for a family friend’s hotel. They wanted to offer their guests more than just a bed and room, but also something better than vending machine food – without having a restaurant of their own.
Berlin’s The Circus hotel recently experienced a typical lockdown fate: Although it has its own gastronomy and even brews its very own craft beer, for the longest time there were no guests due to the strict Corona restrictions. To encourage people to come back to the city as well as reassure visitors with any lingering concerns about keeping a safe distance from one another, they now offer their own Drink in the Park box. The box includes everything you need for a perfect happy hour picnic: two cocktails from the Lost My Voice bar, two bottles of beer, a few snacks and handy extras like a picnic blanket, ice cooler and glasses. Guests who spend three nights at the hotel will receive the box worth 25 euros as a complimentary gift. “By offering this rather unique new opening offer, we want to give our guests the freedom to enjoy the capitol city free from pandemic restrictions,” explains hotel director Katrin Schönig.
This goal to entice guests back through an outing in nature is being pursued on an even larger scale in Carinthia. The »picnic for distance« campaign was launched across the country. It combines culinary and artistic attractions, with artists ranging from acrobats to musicians performing unannounced at the picnic locations. This approach is also used in Gescher, a small town an hour’s drive north of Dortmund – but in a different way. Instead of the art coming to the guest, the guests go to the art. You can take your picnic basket to the local art gallery and picnic indoors among the artwork on display.
When it comes to picnics, Münsterland is also very versatile. You can rent classic cars for joyrides, order a picnic basket packed with regional products, or take guided hikes through nature reserves led by nature guides, complete with an elaborate picnic rather than a quick snack. In general, the service providers focus on creating a feel-good experience at special locations. The Hermes Villa park overlooking Vienna, a Sailor’s Picnic aboard a small boat on Lake Neusiedl, a basket full of samplings of the finest antipasti at the Wachau vineyard or a Museum Picnic on the grounds of the open-air museum in Stübing near Graz are among the examples.
It’s all about evocative and atmospheric settings and unique presentation, like the “floating picnic,” which is served in a private pool on a wooden tray for up to 15 people at a finca in Ibiza. And then there’s the 8300-dollar helicopter ride from Manhattan to a secluded bay near New York where you can enjoy a picnic in style.
All this nurtures the guests’ desire to be outside in the fresh air, which has come of age thanks to Corona. Whether barbecuing on the terrace, dining in an outdoor garden or freestyling in parks and squares: “People feel safer outdoors after Corona,” speculates Julia Kutas, and she believes this trend is here to stay. “People have become less fazed by the weather, and they’re no longer put off by a gentle breeze and light sprinkle.” On top of that, there’s the appeal of a stylish contrast. Instead of meals beautifully arranged on the plate and impeccably temperature-controlled wine tastings, understated background music and dimmed lighting, you just have to pack up food, drinks and snacks, drive somewhere, spread out your picnic blanket and voilà! No other diners at the next table, no cramped quarters, just a tree trunk for a coat rack, the open sky for a roof, the twittering birds for a soundtrack. Plus, it offers the chance to sample a variety of tasty tidbits like you can usually only get at a buffet. “Sharing and sampling is all the rage,” says Kutas.
The Circus director Katrin Schönig is also convinced that the trend for picnics “is by no means new, nor will it die out any time soon.” From what was sometimes the only option to spend a pleasant day outdoors in the days of Corona, “it is now once more one of many options, but still a very attractive way to have a good time with loved ones.” What picnics support. In any case, demand for such offers is increasing. Additionally, there are countless ways to expand and combine what this entails. Picnic plus wine cellar tour, picnic plus bike tour with rental e-bike, picnic plus llama hike – the possibilities are endless. Picnic plus proposal.
The French provider Love Picnics Paris specializes in exactly that. Along with the basket, which is nicely packed with all the right stuff for the occasion – champagne! roses! – the offer also “delivers” your very own photographer. The Eiffel Tower silently witnessing the event, the palace gardens of Versailles as a backdrop, Sacre Coeur church in the distance: With their masterful eye for setting a romantic scene, the photographer will capture this special moment for all eternity.
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This takes the picnic back to where it came from. At least that’s what you’d say if you believe the word’s French origins. In this case, the word is considered to be a mix of “piquer” meaning “to pick” and “nique” meaning “little thing,” which first appeared together in a book in 1692. But there is also a British version of the story. For this, our first written record is found in a letter written by Lord Chesterfield in 1748, which refers to a gathering as a “picnic”. However, no food was served there. Along these lines, Sweden gets in the race to lay claims to this word, albeit they spell it “picknick.” Or what about Japan? In the land of the rising sun, outdoor meals are a tradition, especially during cherry blossom season. There, “pikunikku” is the borrowed expression used.