| Contributing writer
Got Valentine’s Day plans during a pandemic? If not, Hilary and Franco Coniglione are hoping their unique Lake Travis business can help.
The Sweetwater/Bee Cave residents run a luxury, pop-up picnic establishment, Bluebonnet Picnic Co., and have partnered with Spicewood Vineyards to bottle up romantic packages for couples next month.
The premise is for guests to choose a venue and picnic offering, with Bluebonnet setting up the event ahead of arrival time, and including food, games, place settings, tables and seating. Cleanup is left to the staff and food options include charcuterie boards for romance packages, as well as brunch fare and sandwiches for tea parties. Packages are priced from $175, with most three-hour sessions costing $300 for two or four participants to $650 for eight participants.
“Think about if you were to go to Morocco, sitting on the ground with a bunch of layers of rugs,” Hilary Coniglione said of the picnic vibe that stemmed from a trip to Morocco she took about a year ago.
Open less than a month, the new business already has booked events for February — including a setup at a local ranch — and is slated to provide a “COVID-friendly” giant teacher appreciation picnic for 77 Rough Hollow Elementary School staff members in May.
“You get to have all of the fun and do none of the work,” said Hilary Coniglione, whose background is in marketing.
Although the picnic business concept is popular in California, Arizona and Nashville, Tenn., she said, it’s perfect for the western Travis County market of Lakeway, Bee Cave, Spicewood, West Lake Hills and Rollingwood.
“We live in such a beautiful place and we live in a place where people love to be outdoors,” Coniglione said. “To me, the Hill Country is the perfect backdrop for a romantic picnic, for a fun girls day, for a couple’s hangout. That, for us, is why we chose to stay close to home with this project.”
As a contactless event, the company was primed for a pandemic start.
“It is an outdoor experience so if you do want to get together with your girlfriends but you don’t want to have lunch inside somewhere, you can feel a bit safer,” Coniglione said. “We have been overwhelmed with people who are very terrified of coronavirus, and understandably so, who are booking with us.”
Picnics can be set up in a home backyard if residents don’t feel comfortable leaving the house for a break from the monotonous routine over the past 11 months, she said.
The company doesn’t have a liquor license yet, but Coniglione said it has partnered with Spicewood Vineyards as “a preferred venue,” enabling wine to be included at onsite picnics. The Conigliones were married at the venue about three-and-a-half years ago, she said.
“For the most part, a lot of people are seeing this as an exciting opportunity during the pandemic,” Hilary Coniglione said.
For more information, see bluebonnetpicnic.com.