Casual Living Staff -- Casual Living, February 9, 2012
The hearth, patio & barbecue expo is just around the corner, and for a number of barbecue manufacturers, one of the most important aspects of the show is the outdoor burn area. It offers the perfect opportunity to demonstrate product performance, which usually prompts much more interaction with attendees than simply having the products at the indoor booth. (This seems to be true regardless of how freezing cold/windy/wet/far away the Burn Area is.) Attendees always seem to be equally enthusiastic about witnessing product performance and having the opportunity to compare models and products among manufacturers.
You'll also note that a big part of the outdoor Burn Area for barbecue enthusiasts involves food. After all, isn't it easier to see how well a Twin Eagles infrared Salaman grill bakes a pizza when you're standing in front of the booth, eating a piping hot slice, and hearing about the product's other attributes? And isn't smelling Jack Daniel's wood pellets at the BBQr's Delight booth while snacking on a morsel of meat cooked over flavored smoke favorable to hearing someone talk about it?
Now let's translate the concept of demos to your own business. You know the technique works because at trade shows you find yourself drawn to grill manufacturers that demonstrate and feed you.
So, what does your store demo schedule look like for 2012?
Demos frequently add almost-instant dollars to the bottom line. You may already have enthusiastic, articulate and knowledgeable salespeople that know your products and can do routine demos. All good. But given the recent spate of food shows on TV, consumers are far more food-savvy than they used to be. So, to increase your credibility and draw a bigger crowd, consider engaging a "celebrity chef" to represent you at your store or at a charity fund raiser, a local fair or a home or builder's show.
There are a number of options for finding a suitable chef, but keep in mind that some training on the specific brands of grills and accessories that you want to promote will be required.
Start by considering local restaurant chefs, preferably barbecue ones. Or locate a local, award-winning competition barbecuer who would be willing to perform on your behalf. Or maybe a vendor has a chef that might be available for special occasions - anything that helps you make money is worth pursuing.
There's another aspect that you may want to incorporate into your demos, given the consumer obsession with all things food: Culinary trends. Being familiar with, and promoting your products in conjunction with, food trends can easily set you apart from the competition. For example, do you know that many food experts believe that Indian food is going to be a big food movement this year? Locally grown, farm-to-fork foods are also predicted to spike. Positioning members of your sales team as being food experts, as well as barbecue experts, can only add to your store's credibility and popularity.
See you in Atlanta!
Stephanie Richardson Grill Promoter
Celebrity chefs add sizzle to in-store events: A New York Times best-selling cookbook author, celebrity chef Jamie Purviance has penned a number of popular cookbook titles for Weber, with another scheduled to be released in May. Look for Purviance’s special guest column to appear in the March issue of Casual Living.