You don't have to spend a fortune on a corporate outing to make a big impact. Texas-based Small Giants Community founder Paul Spiegelman’s corporate picnic at the Lonesome Dove Ranch was so inspiring, he wrote an article about it for Inc.com. “Oftentimes, employee perks are the fi rst cuts to improve margins,” Spiegelman writes. “Don’t do it. Here’s why.”
There are compelling benefits of hosting a corporate picnic, he says, such as the commitment and gratitude it inspires in employees. Additionally, corporate picnics help break down walls by bringing people from different areas together, along with allowing families to enjoy the day and make new connections.
“The appreciation I witness from all employees who attend these events is heartwarming and affirms our purpose,” Spiegelman writes. “They know we don’t have to do it, and they are thankful. And that encourages employee loyalty and continued hard work.”
In Texas, there are hundreds of ways (and places) to throw a memorable corporate picnic. Here are a few ideas.
Lazy Acres Events, Magnolia
With more than 30 years in the corporate picnic business, Lazy Acres has perfected the art of the perfect picnic. Just 10 miles north of Houston, this private venue is set on 20 acres complete with a fish pond, farm animals to feed, an on-site event coordinator, a delicious meal prepared on the property and even a swimming pool. In addition to the traditional All-American Picnic, Lazy Acres also offers a Sundown (evening) option and now, in its second year, a Fall Harvest Picnic with access to its pumpkin patch and a December picnic complete with Santa hayride.
“Lazy Acres Events is the perfect solution for a company picnic, because as we say, ‘You invite your guests, and we will do the rest,’” says Samantha Martinez, assistant director. “A summer favorite menu right now starts out with a stop at the concession stand for a refreshing snow cone and bag of popcorn, a walk through our beer garden stocked with your guests’ favorites, a delicious barbecue plate cooked on-site, a side of fresh sliced watermelon and a gourmet cookie to top it off.”
South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center, Corpus Christi
Described as “a flora, fauna and fun approach to nature tourism,” this beautiful, out-of-thebox nature center is dedicated to the conservation and preservation of native and adapted South Texas flora and fauna. With exotic parrots, reptiles and unique water features, your corporate picnic can be different every time. Features include a 2,600-square-foot screened butterfly house, orchid and bromeliad conservatories, majestic rose garden and seasonal plumeria garden along with hummingbird, desert arid and sensory gardens, which guests may tour according to MaryJane Crull, communications and marketing director.
“Depending on time of day, there are nature trails, natural wetlands, a Wetland Awareness boardwalk and a birding tower,” Crull explains. “Really unique to a botanical garden is our large exotic parrot collection, and resident reptiles, of which the iguana house and tortoise pens are outdoors. In the children’s play area, kids love the Monkey Mansion Tree House.”
For catering, one of the most popular providers is Texas Roadhouse, which has served steak dinners to as many as 900 guests, Crull says. She adds that food trucks also may come on-site, in approved parking areas. For group picnics, Crull recommends the scenic rose garden and pavilion, with room for a few hundred at tables on the lawn area and/or about 70 under the covered pavilion.
The Ranch of Lonesome Dove, Southlake
About 30 miles from Dallas, the Ranch of Lonesome Dove offers 43 acres of pristine lawns and fields with a view of Lake Grapevine, and when things get too hot, the 14,400-square-foot event space can accommodate groups up to 700 comfortably. Company picnics are a specialty at the ranch. Picnics include Ranch Olympics and other activities, such as a water balloon toss, face painting, a bouncy house, trackless train rides, organized sports and more on acres of beautiful manicured landscape. And on the menu for a summer picnic? Texas barbecue of course, with brisket, chicken sausage and even Cajun turkey. CEO Mike Faulkner highlights frozen lemonade slushes and Makenzie’s Famous Sweet Tea as his favorite summer drinks. He adds that he has a favorite summer snack item, “A ‘Mike Special’ with nacho cheese and jalapenos on a hot dog in a bun topped with pickle relish, ketchup and mustard.”
Cibolo Nature Center & Farm, Boerne
Approximately 30 miles from San Antonio, the Cibolo Nature Center & Farm includes both the 100-acre Cibolo Nature Center and the 60-acre, historic Herff Farm. The original 10,000-acre ranch was established in 1852 by surgeon Dr. Ferdinand Herff.
According to Claire Jenkins, development and events coordinator, the venue is perfect for meetings and picnics because groups have access to the nature center or the homestead, as well as the great outdoors, including miles of hiking trails. Some special features of the Herff Farm are the beautiful Herff Historic Homestead where meetings can be held along with access to the Cibolo Creek and miles of hiking trails, Jenkins says.
“We have hosted all types of events and parties at the Herff Farm and aim to make it as seamless as possible. I think the biggest benefit is that the beauty of the venue speaks for itself and allows for individuals to customize their corporate event experience how they see fit,” says Jennifer Wyle, chief operating officer.
Food trucks in Austin are still all the rage, and for good reason—the food is awesome. The Picnic food truck park, located on prime real estate in the heart of Austin, makes it easy to host an outdoor culinary event that includes locally owned trucks and amazing food. With 80 parking spots, large pavilions and air-conditioned restrooms, The Picnic is raising the bar on food truck events.
“Food trucks are curated based on the menu, and only the best operators are considered,” says Alastair Jenkin, managing partner.
Some fan-favorite menu items include the Caprese Salad at Cannone, Arepas (Venezuelan) at Four Brothers and the Acai Bowl at Acai Hut, Jenkin says. “So we have best of both worlds—consistency but also new options.” The Picnic welcomes private event requests. thepicnicaustin.com