After producing literally hundreds of picnics in the bay as the premier corporate picnic planner in San Francisco, I have found that there are issues any savvy planner to be must address. Below are some of the most important and often overlooked issues in planning a summer picnic for your group.

1. Cost

If you do not have at least $100 per person to spend for a company picnic (of 75 people or greater) than I strongly suggest putting that money aside for your holiday party and creating something that much nicer. Keep in mind, the sole purpose of a company picnic, or for most other corporate events, is to make your guests walk away with a warm fuzzy about your organization, and hopefully connect having fun with your company. That won’t happen with a picnic only offering a cheap barbecue and no entertainment. Our always successful picnics run from $75 to $300 per person, with most of them averaging in around $100 to $200 per person out the door.

2. Entertainment at your event:

The first question is are you having kids? If you are, you need the staples: A balloon artist and face painter. A balloon artist is entertaining, gives the kids something to play with long after the performer has left, and adds color to the event. Face painters are, well, face painters. They are a time-honored tradition, and as long as you are able to source a good one, your guests will be pleased that you brought them. The next question is how many for how long. The rule of thumb is a balloon artist can make one creation every 2 to 5 minutes. That is about 12 to 30 kids an hour. 15 to 20 kids per hour is a safe bet. Face painters generally take 5 to 7 minutes per child, so figure 8 to 12 kids per hour, but not all kids want their face painted. Other performers that work well for kids and adults that you should consider are caricature artists, chair massage, magic shows, strolling jugglers, stilt walkers, airbrush tattoo artists ( good for groups with a few kids and lots of adults), and company games. See other ideas at our picnics page, Just download the PDF party packages and scroll down to the variety of performers available under “optional add-ons.”

3. Other event elements to bring:

Who are your employees? What is their education, ethnicity, age? What is the company culture? Most in-house picnic planners consider the company picnic a boring have to, that they must get out of the way. There is a huge world of amazing elements to bring into your picnic. Consider inflatables: Do you want combative ones such as Gladiator joust, bungee run, or Giant boxing? Or do you want more team oriented ones, such as Giant bowling or Giant twister, or a huge obstacle course? How are your people going to interact with each game? Are you going to offer prizes? Are you going to make sure the vendor staffs each game to avoid any liability issues? That will cost more, but is a good idea. There are many choices from $650 to $1500, making them an affordable option for your company picnics. Call Inspire to book through them, or find similar ones yourself.

4. Teens:

If you have young employees or older employees with teenagers, consider a package for them: foosball, basketball shoot out, air hockey, and /or interactive inflatables. Teens often get forgotten at picnics, and you will find the grownups often sneaking over to the teen area to get their game on.

5. Site selection:

How do you find a park? Isn’t anything close that has a spot that fits your group size adequate? The answer is a resounding NO! You need to ask these questions:

A. Do you want amplified music?
B. Do you want inflatables?
C. What else is going on in that park that day?
D. What is the neighborhood like?
E. Do they allow generators or have electricity onsite?

There are three main types of parks: city parks, county parks, and private all inclusive parks. City parks often are more lenient on sound requirements than county parks, but not always of course. Private parks do everything for you, and you usually end up with a canned experience that is mediocre, but easy to plan. The advantage of working with county parks (if they will let you do what you want) is there is usually one number to call for the whole county with a central reservation system. If you get someone who knows their stuff on the phone, they can walk you through every park in the county system and help you select the perfect venue.

6. Fun in the sun:

You can’t have too much fun, but you can have too much sun! Make sure the park you select has enough shade so you don’t need to spend big money on tents or tables with umbrellas. Visit your park at around the time you plan on having your picnic. If you are planning 2+ months in advance, arrive at the park a little later or before your picnic to get an idea of shade. Also does it have adequate tables/chairs? If not, add a few hundred to a few thousand dollars for tables, chairs and linens.

7. Choosing your vendors:

As with all vendors you have not worked with before, either get 2 to 3 corporate referrals from them, or use an agency that guarantees you won’t look bad when a performer you hired doesn’t show, or worse Shows up in a dirty costume or acts unprofessionally. There is an old saying in the event business: A planner is only as good as their vendors.

8. Why should you do company games?

If you can locate a professional, dynamic company games group, they can add immeasurable value to your picnic, helping to cement positive relationships and bring your company together in a way you could never do in the office. Get a bad company games group, and they are an embarrassing nuisance. Feel free to call for recommendations if you are in California. Cheaper is not better in this department. You really get what you pay for! Plan on about $1200 to $2500 for dynamic company games, depending on group size.

9. Give-aways

Consider using promotional, imprinted gifts at the picnic. This is one of the few times you will have access to your employee’s families and can offer good will, and promote your brand and company loyalty throughout the family of your people. For as little as $1 per person, your guests and their families can walk away from the event with a gift they will enjoy and help promote your business!

10. Vendor information:

Don’t forget to give your vendors detailed directions including the name of your picnic area. Parks can be huge, and you can compromise your event if you do not remember that detail. Make sure you get the cell phone number of both an office staff and the driver. There is no worse feeling than having no one to call when your vendor doesn’t show up on time.

11. I know I said 10 items, but I can’t leave you without these on your checklist:

  • Adequate garbage cans?
  • Is the caterer providing tables/linens for the buffet?
  • Are you cooking onsite, or are they delivering pre-cooked?
  • Ask for lots of ice for drinks from the caterer! They rarely bring enough.
  • If they are only serving food for two hours (standard) make sure they are leaving drinks for the duration: before and after the food is out.
  • Make sure they double bowl the condiments with ice under the cheese, tomatoes, lettuce so you don’t end up with a fondue and -salad soup!
  • Remember, no fried items. They won’t make it to your plate in a palatable form, as they do not travel well.
  • Did you remember a vegetarian option?
  • What is the access like for caterers/inflatables?
  • Do you have a table and chairs for the face -painter?
  • If there just isn’t enough shade and you don’t have the budget for tents, are you setting up a sunscreen station?
  • Is the caterer leaving waters and sodas if they are only serving food for 2 out of the 4 hours you will be at the park?
  • Will the caterer leave the food to snack on when they leave?
  • Are you having alcohol? If you are, make sure you have an insured company buy and serve it. Your company will not want that liability!

I am sure you will find this as informative as it is daunting. However, as with all events, if you break down each element and track those details, you will be a star! Alternatively, call a qualified event planner in your area and make them do the heavy lifting. Because of their vendor relationships, they can often bring you a turn key picnic at close to what it would cost you to do it all yourself. To get an idea, take a look at our picnic party packages:

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