NEW YORK— Outdoor dining continues to evolve, beyond just the traditional summer barbecue. Patios have become an extension of the consumer’s living space, and as such, people are looking to extend a sense of presentation and hospitality indoors and out.
Consumers are also looking to create memories outside the property of the home as well, bringing their favorite wine, beer and food with them to enhance their dining experience at outdoor local concerts and games, or at national parks, for example.
This represents a cultural shift, said Bri Smith, Picnic Time’s marketing manager. “Previous generations have been more focused on the luxuries inside the home. People have decorated the interior of the home as their point of pride,” she said. “I think this Millennial generation is focused on making memories, having experiences, enjoying the outdoors and preserving the environment.”
“People want the experience of the outdoors with the comfort of home close by,” added Smith. Many brands are touting ambient lighting and a party atmosphere with indoor/outdoor string lights as part of their marketing, she said.
While tailgating has grown in popularity in recent years, Smith has seen many retailers focusing on “homegating,” in which consumers celebrate watching the game inside, and hanging out outside with licensed serveware during commercial breaks, or having an open connection between the TV room and patio.
Many consumers are seeking out serving items that can be easily used and transported indoor to outdoors. Prodyne’s Stay Put No Tip Stemware Tray, which it debuted this year, helps consumers bring wine glasses from the indoors out, said Scott McArdle, Prodyne president/sales director.
“Outdoor living is a strong category,” said McArdle. He’s seen the trend of consumers extending their living rooms into their outdoor spaces over the past five years. With the development of flat screen TVs, consumers in warmer climates have been able to bring the living room outside.
From a retail perspective, stores have been creating more of an outdoor dining statement, said Lisa Knierim, Villeroy & Boch’s president and CEO Americas, and the company works with its partners to help them display the casual atmosphere that consumers are looking to bring onto their patio.
“When it comes to outdoor entertaining, we’re inspired by tablescapes with greens, herbs and flowers. Retailers can inspire a broad range of consumers with different tastes by reminding them of rich, lush greenery mixed in with both traditional and more modern table settings,” said Knierim.
A more youthful, relaxed approach to using dinnerware to celebrate everyday meals with family and friends also helps bring the idea of utilizing durable porcelain and bone china outdoors. “It doesn’t have to be about melamine, plastic or paper plates. Why sacrifice your dining experience just because you’re dining outside?” said Knierim.
Picnic Time’s Smith noted that while consumers still seek out paper plates and cups for outdoor dining for ease in cleanup, they are willing to spend money on a nice multi-functional serveware piece for an enhanced food presentation.
Consumers also are willing to pay a little more to have their foods covered from the elements and protected from spilling while transporting, noted McArdle. Prodyne’s serveware with lids outsells its serveware without lids, he added.
The foods consumers are experi-menting with on the grill is also fueling the need for different tableware, said Knierim. Villeroy & Boch continues to grow its BBQ Passion line to assist the consumer in serving barbecue foods, as people explore and experiment with cuisine and flavor profiles from around the world.
“It can still be as simple as grilling a few burgers or sausages and serving them with a big salad and potatoes. But the backyard barbecue chef is now expanding with meals like pulled pork, incorporating smokers, and grilling fish, cheeses, vegetables and even fruit,” she added.
Picnic Time’s Smith also said the company has seen growth in a consumer preference for something versatile to take with them to events they are going to, so “they are not just slaves to the concession stand.” Consumer’s tastes are also refined, and they want to bring their own sourced food, especially when it comes to their favorite wine or craft brew/home brew beers. For example, Picnic Time’s Adventurer wine tote, which holds two wine bottles and comes with a corkscrew, bottle opener, cutting board/serving tray and beverageware, has been popular for the company, as has beer growlers and growler totes.
As consumers experience the outdoors in a different fashion, having materials that can have longevity in that type of environment is key, said vendors. Consumers are also seeking out products that are environmentally minded, such as durable but sustainably sourced woods, for example, said Smith. They want to be able to enjoy the outdoors for years to come, and to pass that experience down to future generations.