Pop-up picnics are the new millennial brunch

A picnic set-up by Picnics in the City in Houston, Texas.Courtesy of Martha Suarez, Picnics in the City
  • Young adults are turning to picnic rentals during the pandemic.
  • Picnickers told Business Insider the outdoor dining setups allow them to safely socially distance — plus they make for great Instagram photos.
  • To see how demand has changed and what offerings are the most popular, Business Insider spoke with three picnic rental founders from LA to Chicago.
  • Their picnics range in price from $200 to more than $1,000. Some offer add-ons like photographers and a yoga class.

Rio Schwalbach's now-fiancé arranged a bohemian pop-up picnic proposal on California's Harbor Patrol Beach last September. Little did she know, picnics like this would become a socially distanced solution to her future quarantine boredom.

The scene, set up by LA-based picnic rental company The Picnic Collective, was replete with a teepee, a table brimming with macaroons and flowers, and tasseled pillows. Jason Mraz's "I Won't Give Up" served as the soundtrack and there was, of course, a hidden photographer to capture it all.

"It was the most amazing proposal ever," Schwalbach, 29, told Business Insider.Advertisement

Schwalbach would go on to enlist The Picnic Collective's help twice in the next year as the coronavirus pandemic swept the US. In March, she ordered a picnic basket filled with cheese, fruit, and flowers for an at-home date night. In July, she worked with The Picnic Collective to set up a beach-themed surprise picnic for her friend's 30th birthday.
The 30th birthday surprise picnic Rio Schwalbach set up for her friend.Rio Schwalbach

As young adults like Schwalbach seek to keep special occasions special or look for new activities to do with friends during the pandemic, they're turning to the relatively new business of picnic rentals. Business Insider spoke with three picnic rental founders who all said their clientele consists primarily of 20- to 30-something females looking for new ways to celebrate major life milestones: marriages, birthdays, baby showers, gender reveals, proposals, and bachelorette parties.

Picnics are prime for Instagram

Lauren Rivard, a 26-year-old former marketing director, told Business Insider she started the The Picnic Collective in 2018 after noticing a gap in the market for outdoor gatherings. She now has 10 full-time employees.
Advertisement

"To do something like this, you would have to hire an event planner and get rentals or coordinate florals or find a caterer," she said. "So I just wanted to make it a one-stop-shop situation."

Newport and Malibu locations are some of the company's most popular picnic destinations, she said. It has set up picnics on the beaches of San Diego, Orange County, and Los Angeles and in the deserts and parks of Las Vegas. Rivard said that in the past month, they set up 200 picnics, averaging around 40 a week. The Picnic Collective has two main packages, Rivard said, both of which are designed for two people: the Simple Pleasures package, which starts at $250, and the Bliss Package, which includes a farm table upgrade starting at $350. All picnics come with cheese boards and florals, plus set-up and clean-up. Picnickers looking to go ultra deluxe can also book a dessert station or yoga class for additional fees of up to $400. Rivard said it takes the team about 90 minutes to set up each picnic.Advertisement

A post shared by Cassie Randolph (@cassierandolph)

The picnics' coastal or bohemian aeshetics are prime Instagram porn, and thus natural influencer fodder. Members of Bachelor Nation, from Cassie Randolph to Bekah Martinez, have been posting picnics with The Picnic Collective throughout quarantine (Rivard says the company sometimes does paid events or collaborations with influencers).

The "Bachelor" association was part of the appeal for Schwalbach's friend, a "Bachelor" fan, during her birthday surprise picnic. "She was so excited that she pretended to be on 'The Bachelor,'" Schwalbach said.

Picnics are made for social distancing

A peacock chair in a set-up for a baby shower by Picnics in the City in Houston, Texas.Courtesy of Picnics in the City
Over in Houston, Martha Suarez of Picnics in the City told Business Insider she's seen a shift in the type of picnic people want during the pandemic. Picnic set-ups for 40-plus people in public places have given way to 10-person picnics at home. Picnics here start at $169 for two guests; more people can be added for $20 a head. The company also offers various add-ons, the most popular of which, she said, are a teepee, wooden arch, and peacock chair.Advertisement

Suarez founded Picnics in the City in March 2019 and drew inspiration from her time living in Paris. "I would love picnicking by the Eiffel Tower and I wanted to bring a similar experience looking at the Houston skyline," she said.

That's exactly the experience Samantha Hentosh, 24, got when her fiancé proposed in April. She told Business Insider the pandemic foiled his original plan to propose in Paris, so he turned to Picnics in the City instead.

Picnics in the City has been doing a contactless drop-off of picnic supplies rather than the standard set-up, so Hentosh's now-fiancé set up a picnic in their favorite spot in Buffalo Bayou Park. The low picnic table was littered with photos of the two of them, a gauzy white runner, candlesticks, and orange flowers, all surrounded by cozy pillows. Advertisement

Samantha Hentosh's proposal.Allison Ermon Photography
Meanwhile, others just want something fun to do. Marla Milano, 27, told Business Insider her friend set up a girls' picnic in Chicago with Picnics in the Chi earlier in August. The friend, Milano said, was looking for a safer alternative to eating inside restaurants.

Prices for Picnics in the Chi range from $199 for a basic set-up for two to $1,350 for a custom birthday celebration or gender reveal, founder Tunji Sanni told Business Insider. Milano's friend booked a luxury package for seven, which the group split at $88 per person; it included everything from a Bluetooth speaker and silk flowers to a cheese plate and cake.

"I felt safe from a social disancing perspective, much more so than being on a restaurant patio," Milano said. "It was a great way to catch up with friends and get some cute photos too."Advertisement

Sanni said he created Picnics in the Chi in May to provide a fun, safe space for get-togethers that will relieve coronavirus-stress. He said he's seen a 47% increase in picnic rental requests from June to July.

"Picnics are the new brunch," he said.
{{}}