Bloomberg Businessweek (North America)


- Photograph­s by Ted & Chelsea Cavanaugh Illustrati­ons by Beya Panicha Prop styling by Julia Rose Food styling by Drew Aichele

It takes more time, more money and more homework than ever to eat at a restaurant these days. Bots are snapping up prime slots in dining rooms across America, and if you do get a seat, inflation is making your meal more expensive. Restaurant prices in April were up 4.1% from a year earlier, according to the US Department of Agricultur­e, whereas groceries were only 1.1% higher.

So it’s worth issuing a calming reminder: You can go out to eat without going to a restaurant. In fact, you can have worldclass food on beautiful plates with nice cutlery—and surround yourself with all the best people—with a lot less hassle than dining out.

It’s called a picnic.

The choices available for outdoor eating festivitie­s are more far-ranging now. Williams Sonoma has almost quadrupled the number of picnic products it carries since 2021 to accommodat­e demand, says Kendall Coleman, vice president for public relations. The options for top-quality mail-order food and drink have soared, too, so you can still have the experts do all the prep work. Only a few years ago, you would’ve had to travel to Philadelph­ia to sample the sumptuous meze at chef Michael Solomonov’s acclaimed Zahav; now anyone can go on Goldbelly and have it delivered. The Italian restaurant Via Carota, where New Yorkers routinely wait hours for a table, is likewise making it easier to get its drinks by shipping its sparkling Negroni sbagliato in handsome glass bottles.

It’s not just food and beverages getting the picnic upgrade, either. Flourishes such as a crystal-studded lobster bottle opener, the latest Sonos speaker and colorful flower-embellishe­d napkins will add personalit­y to the standard blanket spread.

In the following pages, we’ve got the best snacks to source— from blackberry Swedish gummies to kimchi chips—as well as a playlist full of summer jams you’ve probably never heard before. There are even games to get people off their phone and on their feet. And if you’re not the host? Even better! We’ve got you covered with gifts to ensure you’ll be on the best-guest list. You deserve a break. Go outside and take it.

Kate Krader and Kat Odell

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