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Grill accessories demos boost sales

Ever-increasing sizes, styles and price points have dominated the news in grills for several years. The question is: What is driving this need for greater capabilities, more features or better bells and whistles? The answer is in the eats.

No matter the grill size or shape, grill retailers are finding sales are being generated by the consumer's need for greater variety and creativity in backyard goodies. Whether it works to smoke, sear, simmer, sauté or sizzle, new features and accessories are what's cooking in the world of grilling.

The Hearth Patio Barbecue Association's 2007 barbecue study confirmed the continued growth of the grilling segment within already skyrocketing outdoor living product sales. During 2007, 17.4 million grills were purchased by Americans looking to create that perfect outdoor entrée, according to HPBA reports.

Retailers excelling in grill sales have learned that it is what comes off the grill that creates the buzz and generates sales. Taking the time to explore a few of the latest grilling accessories or features can create tastier sales this season.

Stones and Plate Setters – Retailers of the Big Green Egg find plate setters and new stones to be the hottest accessories to an already popular grill choice.

“The most requested EGGcessory is the plate setter, which is used for indirect cooking and contributes to outdoor cooking versatility,” said Donna Myers, one of the leading consultants to the barbecue industry. (Myers' grill column can be found on page 56.)

Another hot accessory, the Half Moon Pizza Stone, creates a secondary cooking surface while keeping half the cooking grid for grilling.

“Shoppers, with a list from the proud EGG owner, are usually looking for plate setters, rib racks, pizza stones or rubs,” said James Bassemier, operations manager of Bassemier's, Evansville, Ind. “Our clients are using the pizza stone for anything from chocolate chip cookies to BBQ pizzas.”

Searing Station/Burner – Creating an ultimate environment for meat grilling has been answered by another new accessory, a Searing Station/Burner.

“I can't underestimate the advantage of the Sear Burner,” said Jim Reitzel, fireplace and grill manager of Fleet Plummer, Greensboro, N.C. “Meat eaters go out of their way in search of higher temperatures. We see sales increases because of this new feature.”

Weber has introduced a blue flame sear burner that is designed to reach temperatures of 800 to 900 degrees. “The 19th Annual Weber GrillWatch survey reports that one-quarter of grill owners are very interested in having a sear zone,” said Ernie Boys, Weber vice president of product management. “This technology can give grilled food restaurant-quality sear marks and more caramelized flavor.”

Reitzel also expects great things this year for their line of electric grills, including an affordable and portable model from Dimplex of Cambridge, Ontario that combines a searing element with a lower cooking element.

Roasting Post – A roasting post is the newest accessory that has Holland Grill retailers buzzing.

“The Roasting Post is designed to steam flavor directly into a whole chicken while it cooks,” said Barry Byars, vice president/general manager, Holland Grills. “Its wide base keeps it from tipping over and it is made to do a great job in your kitchen oven as well.”

Often the feature that creates the tastiest sales can be as simple as the manner in which the grill cooks. This has been the case for Holland Grill retailers.

“The Holland Grill is the best way to cook Thanksgiving Turkey,” said Anna Papp, owner, Outdoor Living Center in Covington, La. “It's the only grill guaranteed not to flare up.”

Holland's product information confirms this non-flare feature is available across its line in all price ranges.

With the ability to produce unique and tastier foods as a key selling point, many grill retailers are having success holding cooking demos and schools. Bassemier said the Big Green Egg's key selling feature “has to be taste.” He chose the word tremendous to describe reception to the store's cooking schools, which were started at the urging of one of their customers.

Papp said holding demos for uniquely style grills such as the EGG or the Holland creates sales at her Outdoor Living Center. “Both grills also have wonderful cookbooks included with the grill as well as on their Web sites,” Papp said.

“We have a significant increase in sales after a cooking demo,” Reitzel said. “We love to cook and we love to eat and we share that passion with our customers. What we don't teach them, they teach us.”

In the grill retailing business, greater growth is being forecast by retailers and the industry association alike. Taking tips from consumers' pallets and introducing more than just the basics, but even tastier accessories, could have everyone saying “you can grill that again.”

The most requested accessory for the Big Green Egg is a plate setter, used for indirect cooking.

Holland Grill's new Roasting Post steams flavor directly into a whole chicken while it cooks.

Bassemier's of Evansville, Ind., stocks plenty of barbecue accessories to lure customers in. Plate setters, rib racks, pizza stones and rubs top the must-have list.

Bassemier's also holds cooking schools which started at the urging of a customer.

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