The Barbecue Lifestyle

Bruce Bjorkman
Bruce Bjorkman writes a monthly column for Casual Living called The Barbecue Lifestyle, a perfect outlet for his years in the grill industry. Currently Bruce is director of sales and marketing for MAK Grills, and he is always ready to tackle the next hot topic. Contact Bruce at
  • A Fond Farewell

    So much has changed in the retail landscape since my first column appeared in this magazine in 2013. In just four short years, there’s been an explosion in the number of new grill brands. We’ve seen well-known casual and barbecue retailers close their doors. There is the continual shift in how and where people buy products to enhance their outdoor spaces. The pace of change increases ever-more quickly each day. Looking back at the four years seems like decades, rather than years. The drum beat of our lives seems to continually increase in tempo. There is no slowing ... Read More
  • Seeing is Believing

    One of the truisms of business that I’ve held for decades is this: If you’re not visible . . . you’re invisible! Many retailers don’t have enough fingers and toes to keep track of the number of times a customer has remarked, “I never knew you were there.” Let’s face it: Consumers get in a traffic pattern rut. If you’re not situated along their normal route to and from work or near their home, you’re most likely invisible to them. Years ago in this column, I shared the anecdote about the time I was a guest ... Read More
  • A Sizzling New Year

    It’s an annual rite: Every new year brings a plethora of lists. Top health trends, decorating fads, the hot colors. While many of these lists are little more than entertainment, some can provide real insight for your business. If you’re selling outdoor cooking products, it’s important to know the emerging food trends so you can use them to boost sales, educate your customers, and customize your sales presentations and cooking classes. In that spirit, here are some of the top food trends for 2017: Meat Matters Contrary to some reports, meat consumption isn’t going away. While ... Read More
  • What a Year!

    The end of the year is typically a time of reflection and review. It gives us a chance to look back over the year and recall learning experiences from the last 365 days and bring those lessons forward into the new year. In 2016, I wrote thousands of words in this column with the intent to inspire, educate, and challenge you each month. With that in mind, here are some of the key takeaways from this past year’s columns: Forget Seasonality Barbecuing is no longer a fair-weather activity. Many grill owners use their outdoor cooking devices every month of ... Read More
  • Make a Friend, Make a Sale

    I learned decades ago that when it came to sales, people bought from people they liked. That’s been one of the cornerstones of my selling life ever since. And it’s the basis of what has become known as “relationship selling.” In 1990, “Relationship Selling” hit the shelves. The book by super salesman and speaker Jim Cathcart became an instant classic, selling tens of millions of copies. In 2016, the title is still in print, a testimony that the principles and training contained in its pages are still just as important and effective. The gist of Cathcart’s book ... Read More
  • Selling the Sizzle

    I am an unabashed cigar smoker. I get great enjoyment sitting out on my covered patio, firing up my pellet grill and a great cigar at the same time—it’s a relaxing way to enjoy a perfect day in Oregon. Every spring, I purchase around $200 worth of cigars from a catalog retailer based in North Carolina. I’ve been a longtime customer of this firm, and I like their wide selection of stogies. One of the company’s marketing tools is a daily sale email sent out to customers. Every morning, a new sales pitch arrives in my ... Read More
  • You’d better watch out…

    It may already be too late if you haven’t started planning for the holidays. Thanksgiving is closer than you think. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day will follow as quickly as a blink, and the next thing you know, it’ll be New Year’s. “Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future,” sang Steve Miller. And unfortunately, it’s true. For grill retailers, the holidays can be almost as good sales-wise as the spring and summer months. But you have to be prepared for them. That means having a strategy to make the most of the sales opportunity ... Read More
  • Going the extra mile

    Last month in this column, I shared a story about my recent trip with my wife, Sandi, to Texas for a tour of the state’s barbecue hot spots. I touched on a moment in our trip that really drove home the value of customer service to me, and I’d like to elaborate on that experience (and what it can teach about exceptional service) a bit more this month. As you may remember from my last column, my wife and I were in the midst of our trip when we stopped at a Freddy’s Custard shop. While eating ... Read More
  • Are You Your Own Worst Enemy?

    It’s hard to deny a sizzling hot burger fresh off the grill. And sometimes, the made-to-order variety at restaurants is nearly just as good. Take one of my former favorite burger spots: The patties are perfectly cooked and accessorized with fresh lettuce, tomatoes, onions and cheese. But taste isn’t everything. When the place first opened, it got rave reviews for the quality of its burgers and the efficient, happy service. But now something has changed. The gal who used to work the drive-up window is no longer there, so customers are greeted by the owner – who wouldn’t ... Read More
  • Ole Ben Was Right!

    There's an eight-and-a-half by 11-inch piece of paper that's taped to the wall behind my computer monitor. Every time I look up, I see it. The paper has 15 words that state, "The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten." Benjamin Franklin printed that sentence more than 200 years ago. It's an enduring truth that needs to be reintroduced into our everyday selling routine on a regular basis. And I believe it’s also a battle cry to the independent retailer on how you can compete against national chains and ... Read More
  • The Power of Email

    It should be no secret that we are firmly planted in the “Digital Age.” The Internet, email and social media channels such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, along with many other digital interaction choices, abound. Most of these digital communication media tools are absolutely free to use. So why is it that so few retailers are using one or all of them on a consistent basis? It’s my opinion that one of the best free marketing tools at your disposal is email. Not only is it free, it’s also a direct, personal link to your customers. Email ... Read More
  • Not just 9-to-5

    It’s a fact that we no longer live in a nine-to-five world. People are coming and going to work, and living their lives on an around-the-clock basis. So why is it that so many retailers still operate their stores with inconvenient hours? Many of the retailers I speak with operate their stores on a 9-to-5 basis, expecting working consumers to fit their lives into those eight hours on Monday-through-Friday. If a consumer wants to make a purchase after work, he’s outta luck. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the largest percentage of working folks in America are ... Read More