Jenny and Jeff Sutich, a young Reno couple, do picnics. But forget a soggy sandwich on an old sheet. The picnics they do are as far from a sandwich on a sheet as a tube top is from Chanel couture.
Their company, Dine by Design with Pique-Nique, creates upscale picnics, “pique-nique” being the French word for picnic.
A basic outing begins with a color theme, then builds from there: a picnic basket, a low farm-inspired table, stylish pillows and blankets, a decorative umbrella, floral arrangements, a chalkboard message, a Bluetooth speaker, tableware, sparkling water, bread selections, a charcuterie or plant-based platter and —so crucial!— set-up and clean-up of the picnic.
That’s the basic version, from $259 for two, but options abound for customizing: like foods from Nothing to It Culinary Center, artisan chocolates, a coffee bar, juices displayed on a drinks cart, a dessert station, more lavish florals or décor, an expanded charcuterie board stretching 4 feet, a lace tepee (!), even a Polaroid-style camera for quick snaps.
Want those snaps upgraded to professional photography? That can be arranged. So can a cornhole game for a break from elegant grazing. About the only upgrades not available are alcohol (the company isn’t licensed) and a line of polite ants for that classic picnic feel.
“You meet people from all walks of life. Many picnics are celebrating major life events. It’s not just a picnic — we’re giving people an experience,” said Jenny Sutich, who began work on Dine by Design in spring 2020 after seeing such outfits in Southern California but not in the Truckee Meadows.
“I’d always wanted to start my own business before I was 40. And who doesn’t love a picnic anyway?”
Picnics in winter, in fall, at the lake
The chic spreads created by Dine by Design belong to a long tradition of fashionable entertainments out of doors: from 18th century French aristocrats mingling at fêtes champêtres garden parties to British colonialists dressing for dinner in the bush to glamping destinations that exist in part to be Instagrammed.
Dine by Design picnics combine this history with our coronavirus present as they’re offer folks an occasion to gather outdoors (and a respite without air travel).
The company’s first picnic, delayed by the pandemic, took place in September 2020 at Lake Tahoe, a bohemian-themed excursion (think: macramé table runners) for a couple celebrating their anniversary.
Since then, Jenny and Jeff Sutich have staged a winter picnic indoors (to extend the season) and a fall picnic scattered with leaves beside a pond in West Reno. They’ve crafted a pink-accented birthday party (with pink fringed table) on an emerald sweep of lawn and a beach picnic at Lake Tahoe to accompany a marriage proposal.
Hard going down, even harder going up
“The coolest and by far the most difficult picnic we’ve done,” Jenny Sutich said, was this summer at Skunk Harbor, in that small finger of Carson City that touches Lake Tahoe. The city hired Dine by Design to fashion a picnic on a boulder-studded beach for a group of national influencers invited by officials to promote the capital.
The picnic involved guiding trailers packed with food and equipment (no vehicle access) for 1.5 miles on a steep Forest Service dirt road leading to the water. The trip down took an hour; the return journey uphill, after packing up the picnic, took three times as long.
“We didn’t leave the beach until 9 p.m.,” Jeff Sutich said. “It was pitch dark under the stars.” And there was a picnic lesson learned: “Now, we have in our terms we have to be able to drive within 50 yards of the site.”
Can’t do a picnic? Do the hamper instead
Jeff Sutich, a business development adviser for NV Energy, joined his wife in founding Dine by Design in spring 2020.
“It was something cool we could do together,” he said. “Her right brain, her creativity — and my lack thereof — with my left-brain business focus, and maybe scoring some charcuterie on the side.”
Jeff Sutich researched the market for elevated picnics, wrote a business plan, obtained licenses and negotiated with suppliers of baskets, décor, tableware, umbrellas, and picnic tables specially designed for the company.
During negotiations, “I did try to make my own picnic tables, and I realized — I’m not a carpenter,” he said.
Jeff Sutich also realized, given the seasonality of the picnic business, it would behoove Dine by Design to have more than one revenue stream, and so the couple developed a retail side hustle.
On the company website, folks can order picnic umbrellas and Made in Nevada picnic baskets stocked with locally sourced foods and four place settings. Because the next best thing to a full picnic is the picnic hamper.
Johnathan L. Wright is the food and drink writer for Reno News & Review. Follow him on Twitter at @ItsJLW or on Facebook personally or at @FoodNevada. Sign up here for the Reno News & Review free weekly newsletter highlighting our most recent stories.