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Promote cooking turkey outside to generate late season sales

Grill Column

If there is one day of the year when every homeowner in the country wishes they had a second oven, it has to be Thanksgiving. Virtually everything from the fragrant pumpkin, mince and apple pies to candied sweet potatoes, an extra dish of stuffing, creamed onions and all the other favorite side dishes demand oven space. But for most people the turkey has commandeered the entire oven.

Turkey grill
Turkey, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie can all be cooked outdoors.

You can offer the perfect solution to your customers. Cook the turkey outdoors and free up your oven for other foods. No matter what method you use for cooking the big bird, it will be much tastier than the oven roasted version. Suggest cooking it indirectly or on a rotisserie in a gas grill, giving it extra flavor from charcoal in a kettle, an offset smoker, or a ceramic cooker, employing low ’n’ slow cooking in an electric box-style smoker or an electric or propane fryer. And rest assured that however you cook the centerpiece of Thanksgiving dinner, it will be beautifully bronzed, moist and flavorful and will require little effort.

Start promotions early

Take full advantage of the profit potential that increased November traffic can generate by starting your promotional activities in mid-October. By this time of year many backyard barbecuers may be low on charcoal or propane, they will be looking for lots of how-to help if cooking Tom Turkey outside is new to them, and you carry many accessories, flavor boosters, cookbooks and other products that will make cooking a turkey outdoors easy and convenient -- while assuring success and accolades from guests for even the novice outdoor chef.

Demo every weekend

This food-centered holiday offers unlimited, superb promotional opportunities. Start by scheduling Saturday demos from mid-October until the weekend before Thanksgiving. Use different grills to cook on every week to show that no matter what equipment people have or want to buy they can cook their turkey on the patio or deck.

Cook whole turkeys and turkey breasts

Thread the turkey on a rotisserie or cook it indirectly, smoke in a pellet, propane, electric or charcoal grill, a ceramic cooker, or an offset charcoal barrel grill. And don’t forget to demonstrate frying in an electric or propane fryer as another very simple alternative that yields a crispy outside and juicy interior. Fried turkey cooks so quickly you can prepare a 14-pound bird in less than an hour.

Offer cooking Thanksgiving dinner on grill class

Cooking turkeys on a variety of grills can free up your oven inside for other foods.

This is an ideal time of year to offer a class on Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner on the Grill. Perhaps one of your own staff members is sufficiently skilled to conduct it or snare a local chef or someone you may use regularly to teach classes. A local blue ribbon competition cooker is another possible candidate to teach this class for you.

Use a number of different grills, cook all parts of the dinner from pies to side dishes to the turkey, and also promote appropriate accessories and seasonings like a brining kit, a vertical turkey roaster, an injector and marinades, wood chips, poultry rubs, roasting racks, cutting boards, long mitts, etc.

Offer class participants a discount on any equipment purchased the day of the class. Remember these products reward you with attractive margins. Have a local butcher shop or supermarket provide the turkeys in exchange for credit in your promotional materials and printed program and distribute discount coupons for them. Have them post displays inviting customers to attend your class. Be sure to invite the local newspaper or regional magazine food editors, as well as radio and TV broadcasters, to the class to help generate media coverage.

Everyone loves a sweepstakes

three options
Three options for cooking Thanksgiving turkey outdoors: Rotiss on a gas grill, slow cook in a smoker or cook it fast in a propane fryer.

Another way to tie in with a supermarket or other local merchants is to run a sweepstakes for a month prior to Thanksgiving and let people enter the sweepstakes at your store or the co-op partner’s facility. You can provide a grill and signage for display at the tie-in partner company and it can provide the turkeys for you. Customers can win the grill or one of several turkeys at both locations, so everyone should benefit from increased traffic.

Charity tie-in draws media coverage

You can also add a charity feature by collecting food for Thanksgiving baskets, which are assembled and delivered to less fortunate families by a recognized charity organization or food bank. Every customer bringing in a designated contribution will receive a discount on accessories or a grill or products like a propane tank refill or a bag of charcoal. This should also make your promotion more attractive to the press. Perhaps your employees will agree to each donate an hour to serving free Thanksgiving meals at a local church or other venue on Thanksgiving day. That will add to the scope and impact of your overall charity tie-in.

With about 60% of barbecuers cooking out year around, you need to promote all fall. But it sure helps to have a food-oriented event like Thanksgiving to build a powerful promotion around.

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