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Hearth & Home November 2014

TravelQ 285 Series from Napoleon.

Target Potential Customers

By Lisa Readie Mayer

To find the right market for portable grills, just look for logical groups such as tailgaters, boaters or campers.

Portable grills may be short in stature, but they’re long on potential. The trick is finding the right audience. While marketing with a broad, shotgun approach might work for full-size grills, which enjoy an 80 percent household penetration, it takes a narrow-focused rifle approach to reach the proper target audience for portable grills.

A closer look at your local market will help identify groups that are good candidates for small portables. By customizing your message to each specific target audience, you can zero-in on how portable grills can help meet their needs, and hopefully boost sales of this high-potential category in your store. Here are some groups to consider:


It’s no surprise that a portable grill is the preferred grill of tailgaters, used by 65 percent of parking lot heroes, according to the latest Weber “GrillWatch Survey.” But interestingly, despite reports that ticket sales are down at most college and professional football stadiums, tailgating is on the increase.

Even more interesting, the Weber study shows 57 percent of tailgaters attended a tailgate event in the past year without ever going in to the game, a phenomenon up 13 percent from the year prior. Clearly fans are having too much fun in the parking lot to bother stepping into the stadium. Consequently, with tailgate parties stretching on for hours, it stands to reason that fans would be willing to invest in quality, portable grills and other gear.

Swing ’N Smoke Grill by Party King.

Portables such as Napoleon’s new Travel Q 285 and Pro 285 fit the bill, offering great heat control, windproof crossover-ignition, heavy-duty cast-iron construction, and an optional scissor cart base that collapses for easy transportation. Other options: Swing ’N Smoke Grills by Party King, full-size, stainless-steel propane grills that attach to a trailer hitch, and the quality Porta-Chef series by Broil King with snap-in detachable legs.

The tabletop Pizzeria Pronto is a great option for tailgate pizza parties. Also, accessory items with team logos make good impulse purchases to add to the fun.

If you’re located near a professional or college stadium, consider posting tailgating tips, helpful hints and recipes on fan forums and through your social media outlets, or placing ads in university-sponsored publications and websites to connect with tailgaters. Consider a promotion with the booster club or alumni association in which you donate a portion of the sale of every portable grill to the school’s athletic scholarship fund. Remind them you are the source for portable grills, accessories, fuel and gear – and guaranteed quick in-and-outs on game day.

Urban Dwellers

Q 2200 from Weber-Stephen.

There is a migration to the cities among the Millennial generation today as they delay home ownership and opt for apartments or condos in urban centers. With limited space on balconies, terraces and patios, small portable grills are a good fit. Weber Q Series grills are designed with exactly this demographic in mind, according to Mark Fenne, regional sales manager, who adds they are often used as permanent grills among those who require a smaller unit.

“The Q grills were developed for the urban market and people love the style,” Fenne says. “They retain heat well and evenly, and all grates are now split for ease of clean-up and quick swapping of the griddle surface.”

Baby Boomers

G-Sport from Thermal Engineering Corporation.

Whether they’re retiring to smaller homes or now just cooking for two, Baby Boomers are a prime target for portable grills. Some premium grill manufacturers such as TEC, Outdoor GreatRoom Company, Big Green Egg and others offer small, portable versions of their full-size grills, delivering the quality this audience has come to expect, but in a compact footprint.

To reach this target market, consider hosting grilling classes or demos in the clubhouse of nearby “active adult communities” or at your store, where you can highlight the capabilities of today’s premium portable grills.


Whether it’s on a pontoon, sailboat or yacht, there’s nothing better than grilled catch-of-the-day, fresh out of the water. Some portable grills, such as the Stow ’N Go series from Kuuma Products, mount on boat rails or rod holders and are a great option for boaters.

Look for opportunities to connect with members of boating clubs and marinas by offering to conduct demos or cooking classes on grilling fish either on-site or at your store. If your local newspaper covers fishing, a series of strategically placed ads in that section might be a good idea. Likewise, local television spots on cable fishing and boating programs may also be effective at reaching this audience.

Outdoor Enthusiasts

Porta Chef Pro from Broil King.

Research shows camping is the number-one way people grill away from home. A portable grill is an indispensable amenity for camping, as well as hunting trips, RVing, and other outdoor excursions. Innovative grills such as the Vital Grill (a small, lightweight unit with a patented system for increasing air flow to create a hotter and more efficient fire using less wood or charcoal) and the Fire Disc (a hand-welded, carbon steel, solid surface, round grill that sits atop a stand and is fueled by propane), are ideal for this audience and unique to the specialty marketplace.

Camp Chef also offers a wide variety of portable grills, pizza oven accessories, and other types of portable cookers designed to meet the needs of this group.

Targeting the appropriate niche audiences in your market area should help enhance sales of portable grills for specialty retailers. There is opportunity, if you know where to look.

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