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More home cooking benefits grill retailers

Grill Column

MasterBuilt console.
At-home summer entertaining often centers around water and grilling, made easy through products like this MasterBuilt console.

Some 80% of consumers planned to cook at home more this year to help manage their food budgets, according to Allrecipes’ 2008 Annual Food Trend Forecast. What a great opportunity this is for barbecue equipment retailers.

Your products offer consumers many benefits for their at-home cooking, including greater versatility, terrific flavor even for less expensive foods, convenient meal preparation and the bonus of sharing fun experiences with family and friends.

National BBQ Month and the beginning of the peak outdoor season means it’s time to move into high gear convincing your customers of these benefits.

Step up demo schedules

Big Green Egg grill fosters family fun in the backyard.
Big Green Egg grill fosters family fun in the backyard.

An exceptionally long, cold winter in many parts of the country has made everyone eager to get outside and enjoy backyard activities. For retailers, nicer weather is an incentive to conduct frequent cooking demos that will attract shoppers and increase store traffic. The aroma of food cooking on the grill is irresistible even for people who intended to hurry on past. Nothing sells more effectively than the tantalizing aroma of food cooked on the grill followed by a chance to taste the results. Be sure to promote, both in the store and in your advertising, the fact you’ll be conducting demos.

Don’t let consumers turn demos into a feeding frenzy, however. Choose foods that cook for some time such as a ham, turkey breast or pork shoulder with perhaps some sausages that will let you offer occasional samples while the other meat cooks. If you sell several brands of grills, alternate which one you cook on each weekend.

Make the effort to merchandise appropriate enhancements such as sauces, rubs and wood chips as well as accessories like basting brushes, cutting boards, cookbooks, thermometers, long barbecue mitts and cookbooks. These boost sales by encouraging impulse purchases and net you high margins.

Minimize your demo costs by tying in with a local butcher shop or supermarket meat department. Have them provide your meat in exchange for you handing out their coupons or recipe brochures that will drive traffic to their stores.

Since consumers are very value conscious these days, offer a special that relates to the grill you are cooking on, such as a discount on charcoal or on a propane tank exchange or refill. Consumers report they are definitely using more coupons now so you might include one in your newspaper ads to encourage them to come into your store.

Hold classes for eager chefs

With more time spent cooking at home and an ever growing interest in barbecuing, the demand for barbecue cooking classes has increased everywhere, so why not plan a series of classes that consumers can register for in advance? Charge a fee that will cover your food costs and participants get to eat whatever is cooked in each class. Hold them after work or on weekends and offer special discounts on merchandise for class members that day. Retailers report they can boost their sales by thousands of dollars for every class they conduct. If the grill you’re cooking on and promoting is premium priced, sales could be considerably greater.

You may have someone on your staff who can conduct these classes, but if not look for an award-winning competition barbecuer or a local chef with barbecue expertise. Or perhaps the author of a new cookbook is going to be in your area and might be available to teach a class focusing on the topic of their book – such as smoke cooking, grilling seafood or vegetables or entertaining. Ensure that some of the recipes being prepared will concentrate on turning inexpensive cuts of meat into gourmet fare, and hand out copies of the recipes being prepared.

Offer grill-related gifts

At this time of year there are a multitude of special occasions that are ideal for promoting grills and accessories as gifts. It is traditional to do so for Father’s Day, but with more women barbecuing why not for Mother’s Day? Grills and barbecue-related products are also high on the list of desired gifts for weddings and showers.

Whether someone is seeking a hostess gift for a weekend visit or something to bring to a dinner party, a collection of barbecue accessories, an appealing new barbecue cookbook or some enticing sauces, rubs and mops will always be welcome, with eight out of 10 households barbecuing. And a new portable grill can be positioned as the way to save money on meals for family day trips or camping.

With more staycations being spent at home, extensive backyard entertaining and people making frequent use of their porches, decks and patios, it also offers the opportunity to promote related sales for any of the outdoor products you sell, including deck protectors, patio heaters or fire pits to create a comfortable ambiance. As frequency of use increases, people are likely to be willing to invest a bit more to upgrade their outdoor amenities, even in an economy that has engendered more cautious spending.




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