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    Take It Outside

    Delis can capitalize on outdoor summer dining.

    The July 4th weekend was especially busy at Walter Stewart’s Market in New Canaan, Conn., where employees packed more than 100 picnic meals for clients celebrating the patriotic holiday.

    “We’ve been offering the picnic meal packages for four or five years,” says Arthur Rein, Walter Stewart’s deli/catering manager, noting that many of the meals were for customers attending the town’s fireworks display.

    The picnics – made fresh to order and packed in easy-to-carry picnic boxes  – include a choice of    grilled salmon, shrimp Caesar salad, beef tenderloin, grilled lemon chicken, buttermilk fried chicken, or South Avenue salad, and come with salad, soup or vegetable, dinner roll or biscuit, plus a dessert and beverage.

    And they’re not for holidays alone. The grocer partners with the Summer Theatre of New Canaan to offer a “dinner and a show” experience. Theater-goers can order box dinners online and have them delivered, free of charge, to the local venue one hour before the performance begins.

    “We put the picnic meals together, then the customers pay in advance and pick them up at the [theater] door,” Rein says.

    Walter Stewart’s also can create boxed lunches with sandwiches as well, Rein notes.

    Creative Picnic Ideas

    With summer in full swing, purveying picnic-appropriate options can help delis capture business from customers headed to the beach, a ball game or a family barbecue – customers who might otherwise stop at a fast casual restaurant to pick up a quick meal on the way to their outing.

    Offering fully prepared picnic baskets and boxed lunches, and partnering with other local businesses are effective ways to perk up picnic sales – think movies in the park, summer theater and local day camp outings.

    Creating themed picnics, or giving customers ideas on how to pack their own themed picnic meals, is another approach. Texas-based H-E-B, for example, offers these picnic ideas online:

    • The Kid Friendly Picnic. Pack it with PB&J or cream cheese sandwiches; mix in raisins, chopped celery, grated carrots, or pecans; add kabobs made with fruit and cheese or Vienna sausages and cheese, baby carrots with ranch dressing for dipping, celery sticks filled with peanut butter, and H-E-Buddy Grahams.
    • The Romantic Picnic for Two. Fill a basket with baguettes or bakery bagels; a salmon- or garlic- and herb-flavored cream cheese spread or European-style butter; grapes and bite-sized cheese cubes; wine or sparkling cider; cloth napkins, wine glasses and a butter knife.
    • The Elegant Sandwich Social. Make sandwiches with distinctive breads like baguettes or thick-sliced white or pumpernickel. Chicken salad on cracked wheat; cream cheese and jam on white; ham and Swiss on rye; ripe tomato, avocado slices, cream cheese and alfalfa sprouts on Parmesan bread are all good options. Add fresh fruit and cheese cubes and include paper plates, cups and napkins.

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