The Barbecue Lifestyle

Ben Street
The Barbecue Lifestyle explores all facets of the grill and outdoor kitchen industries, offering retailers insight and strategies for building business through these categories.
  • 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
  • Talk food; sell grills

    One of the best Aspects of being involved in the grill industry is the fact that I get paid to talk with people about food. Whether it’s discussing our grills with dealers or talking with grill owners, food is a topic that comes up frequently. I love sharing or getting recipe and technique ideas from the people I talk with. It’s all delicious, good conversation that more times than not gets mouths salivating and tummies hankering for cooking delicious food on one of our pellet grills. As a grill retailer, I believe that you can develop a deeper ... Read More
  • Winter que-ing!

    It was early February 2014. There were eight inches of snow on the ground in my backyard. While that may seem miniscule to some of you, it was almost a record breaking snowfall for our part of the world. For the first time in the 44 years that I’ve lived in Salem, Ore., motorists were not allowed to travel without having chains on their tires – and we didn’t have chains. So my wife and I were hunkered down and homebound. The temperatures that weekend were between 8 and 12 degrees Fahrenheit. It was COLD! But guess what? The ... Read More
  • Driving Business

    That rolling billboard, which is your company vehicle, is a traveling public display for your business. You’ve emblazoned it with your business name and/or logo and enticing photography as a means of generating additional awareness for your business. It’s a great marketing tool. Practically every weekday I’m on the road to and from work, sharing it with hundreds of commercial and business vehicles, and too many times, I’ve witnessed very bad driving behavior by someone who is behind the wheel of a company vehicle. As a former police officer, I’m probably more aware of ... Read More
  • Pellet grills matter

    I’ll admit right from the get-go, that I am pro pellet grill. I’ve been pro pellet since 1991, when I first became acquainted with Traeger Pellet Grills, which at that time were made in an old dairy barn in Mt. Angel, Ore. Being a barbecue traditionalist, who believes that you can only achieve authentic barbecue by cooking at low temperatures and using hardwood smoke as a flavor component to what you are cooking, I was at first skeptical about these barbecue “toys.” Skeptical, that is, until I had my first bite of Tri-tip and pork loin. The smoke ... Read More
  • Honesty Counts

    It’s my opinion that the majority of advertising is irrelevant and filled with falsehoods. Pure and simple: It’s dishonest, untruthful, not memorable and totally unbelievable. At the very least it’s riddled with clichés, worn-out and trite phrases. I swear, if I hear or read the phrase again, “Our friendly and knowledgeable staff,” I’m going to toss my cookies. Whenever I hear or read this, it makes me think that in all likelihood the consumer will experience the opposite. HEY, RETAILER! Guess what? Consumers expect your staff to know about the product they’re talking about ... Read More
  • Remember the tailgater

    For more than 58 million people, September can’t come soon enough. They’re crossing off the days on their wall and desk calendars. They’re making up lists and menus of what they will need to succeed at one of their favorite annual activities. I’m talking TAILGATING. If you’re a grill retailer who rolls the barbecues out of the showroom after Labor Day, you are shortchanging yourself and missing out on the next round of the grill selling cycle. In many parts of the country, the college football season literally kicks off on Labor Day weekend. The ... Read More