By Lisa Readie Mayer
Grills are the meat-and-potatoes of a barbecue retailer’s business, which makes grilling accessories the dessert.
You could skip selling them, just like you could forgo a slice of chocolate cake after dinner. But why would you want to?
Grilling accessories, tools, gadgets, and gear add fun and excitement to the sales floor, engage customers, and trigger impulse buying. They keep customers returning to the store, and they generate high-margin, bonus revenue – a sweet extra to any grill sale.
Accessories get people to try different foods on the grill and expand meal occasions cooked outdoors (how about a griddle for bacon-and-egg breakfasts when the grandkids sleep over?). They solve consumers’ grilling pain by making outdoor cooking easier, more convenient, and more enjoyable.
Accessorizing Your Store
So, what should you be carrying? According to retailers on their accessories A-game, it is important to offer a selection that is wide and deep. A few products hanging from a pegboard is not going to cut it. As one retailer put it, “You have to look like you are really IN the barbecue accessories business.”
That means dedicating as much real estate as space permits to the category, and displaying and merchandising products in a neat, orderly, and creative fashion. Group like-products together in displays (e.g. stack all charcoal, pellets, and wood cooking fuels in one area), but don’t forget to also incorporate accessories in grill displays throughout the store to show how they would be used.
A display near the checkout to inspire impulse purchases is another effective idea. Spotlight an accessory of the day/week/month, and be sure to promote the featured product in your social media, with details about how it can help people barbecue better.
Some manufacturers, such as Napoleon, Coyote Outdoor Living, and Big Green Egg, offer display systems that help retailers organize and display accessories, maximizing the number of different products that can be merchandised in a compact footprint. A wealth of inventive retail display ideas also can be found on Pinterest; even if they are not specifically for barbecue accessories, the concepts still transfer.
Salespeople should be trained to discuss accessories with every customer buying a grill or outdoor kitchen, asking if they need a new tool set, grid-cleaning product, or cover. In addition, engaging with customers about foods they like to grill invites opportunities to point out accessories that can help make those dishes better, or take outdoor cooking to the next level.
Grillight barbecue utensils.
Tools of the Trade
Of course, all grillers need a basic tool set – long-handled tongs, spatula, and sauce brush – but not all tools are outdoor-kitchen-worthy. “If you own a premium grill or an outdoor kitchen, you want premium tools to go with it,” says Colton Knittig, president of Grillight, a manufacturer of innovative barbecue accessories. “People want unique and different tools and accessories to show off, like a golfer with the latest clubs or a techie with the latest gadgets.”
With that in mind, Grillight created a line of high-quality, stainless-steel tongs, spatulas, and other barbecue tools with built-in LED flashlights and lifetime warranties. The lights, which pop out so the tools can be cleaned in the dishwasher, are engineered to shine directly on the food, making it easier to grill at night. “They are ideal to use with smokers, kamados, and gas grills that don’t have built-in lighting,” says Knittig.
Proud Grill’s new Connect It Magnetic Tool Set earned a Vesta Award for innovation at the latest HPBExpo. The premium, multipurpose set includes a spatula and a meat fork with magnetic handles that can be used individually or joined together in two different ways to create a pair of tongs or a serving utensil. The magnetic tools attach to a grill’s metal side shelf for handy access, and nestle together for compact storage.
Tools like these are anything but run-of-the-mill and are the perfect upsell when someone is buying a premium grill.
The Smoking Pouch from The Smokist.
Fuels and Lighters
Pellet grills, live-fire grills, and smokers are among the fastest-growing grill categories today. That’s good news because they bring people back to the store on a regular basis to buy fuel.
The greater the selection of fuels you offer, the greater the likelihood customers will bypass the big-brand bag of charcoal at the Big Box store and return to your store to try a premium brand, a new wood species, or other special varieties of natural lump charcoal, binchotan charcoal sticks, or wood chips, chunks, or pellets.
Customers might want to try Barrel Proof Wood Chips, made from repurposed bourbon barrels sourced on Kentucky’s bourbon trail. “Everyone wants the latest thing and the newest novelty item,” says company co-owner Susan Jackson. “Bourbon is hugely popular, so people are intrigued. The aroma of the chips is amazing and the flavor they impart is wonderful. When you open a bag in the store, as soon as people smell it, they want to buy it.”
Also essential are fuel-lighting products. “As people use more live-fire grills, multi-fuel grills, smokers, and outdoor fireplaces and fire pits, they need tools to light and manage the fire,” says Kevin Owens of Looftlighter, a product that uses extremely hot air to light lump charcoal, briquettes, or wood logs in 60 seconds. The company just introduced a new cordless, rechargeable model (the original requires electricity), that Owens says will expand its use for RVers, campers, boaters, and others without access to power.
With a pistol-like control handle, the GrillGun is a 400,000 Btu blowtorch that runs off a one-pound propane canister, and lights wood or charcoal in a minute.It is a conversation-starter that might appeal to macho grillers.
Lighting options such as these make sense to stock because, unlike chimney lighters – long the go-to, all-natural, charcoal-lighting alternative – they do not rely on newspaper. As more and more consumers get their news online today, they don’t always have access to a newspaper.
Products such as The Smoking Pouch and The Smoking Heat Deflector by The Smokist, hold wood chips or pellets and make it easy to boost smoke flavor on gas grills and kamados. The A-Maze-N Smoker pellet tray, Napoleon’s Charcoal Tray, the DiamondKingSmoker wood box, and other gadgets also help turn gas grills into multi-fuel hybrids. More complementary accessories for the fuel department: waterproof charcoal containers, ash buckets, shovels, long tongs, and fireproof mitts.
Thermometers and Tech
Meat is expensive. High-tech meat thermometers, Bluetooth monitoring devices, and automated Wi-Fi controllers can help customers protect their investment and cook food perfectly every time. Yet, according to Darren Keller of Maverick, a manufacturer of remote, digital grill thermometers, and other high-tech grilling accessories, only 30% of people use a thermometer when grilling.
“There is tremendous untapped sales potential for retailers in this area,” Keller says. “The technology segment is the fastest-growing area of accessories.” Maverick just introduced “Stake,” a wireless, battery-operated, Bluetooth-enabled meat probe that allows the user to monitor temperature and doneness remotely on their smartphone.
Another wireless meat thermometer is MEATER. The Vesta Award finalist allows the cook to input the cut of meat and desired doneness on the coordinating smartphone app, and follow along as the device transmits temperature, counts down to finish time, and signals when meat should be removed from the grill, taking resting time into account.
Flame Boss 500-WiFi Smoker Controller.
Temperature-control products such as Flame Boss are a must for kamado, smoker, or other solid-fuel grill owners. The Bluetooth-enabled device is inserted into the air-intake vent and automatically adjusts airflow to consistently maintain the exact preset cook temperature, even over long, slow cooks. “It’s like cruise control for the grill,” says Dave Frosch of Flame Boss.
Frosch says the product has great appeal to everyone, from competitive barbecuers to kings of the cul de sac. “If you’re having a party that night, you can text updates to your friends throughout the day to show them what you’re cooking,” he says. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Tech products such as these help attract younger grillers, according to Brad Barrett, owner of GrillGrate. “We’re starting to see more Millennials adopt grilling, now that they’ve discovered they can connect it to their phones,” he says.
Grill Guardian protective stainless-steel grill coating.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Everyone who has ever owned or sold a stainless-steel grill knows the term “stainless” is relative. As such, grill covers, grid cleaners, and exterior maintenance products are logical upsells on any grill purchase.
Applied as a protective exterior coating, Grill Guardian helps prevent staining and rust on any stainless-steel grill. “Stainless steel is not totally smooth, but actually has tiny crevices all over,” explains Mel Mayuga. “This product has microscopic ceramic glass particles that fill in the crevices so stains run off or can easily be wiped off with a microfiber cloth. Unlike stainless-steel cleaners, Grill Guardian prevents stains from happening in the first place. It’s especially helpful in salt-water environments, and one application lasts two years.”
Mayuga says specialty retailers can sell this as a DIY product, or market it as an add-on service to be applied before a new grill leaves the store, similar to an optional, protective-finish upgrade on a new car. In two years, the retailer can offer an at-home follow-up service to clean the grill and reapply the finish. (While the technician is in the backyard, there are opportunities to sell replacement parts and other products.)
Retailers also report that annual grill-brush education programs lead to sales. Teach customers about the dangers of cheap, flimsy grill brushes, while pointing out your premium brushes, wooden paddles, grid scrubbers, wipes, and other grid-cleaning alternatives.
There are seemingly endless products to expand customers’ grilling horizons. Solid-surface griddles are great for making breakfast, cooking fajitas, and sautéing onions. Dutch ovens, cast-iron skillets, sauce pots, and baking stones turn a grill into an oven for smoke-kissed stews, soups, and chilis, baking bread, or even desserts. The Vesta-award-winning All-in-1 accessory from House of BBQ Experts converts an ordinary charcoal kettle into a smoker, pizza oven, and rotisserie grill.
Grill grates are the secret to success for many steak-cookoff champions. The interlocking, hard-anodized, aluminum grilling-grid panels, concentrate and evenly distribute heat for better searing, and have raised rails and valleys to catch and vaporize drippings to add flavor. Models are available to retrofit any traditional gas grill, kamado, kettle, or pellet grill.
Don’t forget pizza stones, panini presses, perforated grids, grill baskets, rib racks, woks, skewers, chicken roasters, rotisseries, meat claws, Himalayan salt plates, plancha griddles, jalapeño roasting racks, and so much more.
Granda Vivo’s Xapron.
S’Mores from Pig Out Publications gives suggestions for making s’mores on a barbecue, in the oven, over a stovetop, and on the hearth.
Other Fun Stuff
Retailers say premium coolers such as the Vesta-Award-winning Truma Cooler Portable Fridge/Freezer, and those from other lifestyle brands such as Yeti, Grizzly, Orca, and Pelican are popular with customers.
Grilling cookbooks help grillers move beyond the basics, study up on new techniques, and get them grilling more often. According to Karen Adler, owner of Pig Out Publications, a publisher and distributor of barbecue cookbooks, today’s best-selling titles involve smoking, live-fire cooking, pellet grilling, kamado grilling, traditional low-and-slow barbecue, pizzas, and wood-fired-ovens.
Some retailers are known for their vast selection of barbecue spice rubs, sauces, brine mixes, hot sauces, finishing salts, and more, offering a wide variety of flavor profiles and regional styles. They say customers keep coming back to try new ones.
And, of course, because you have to look good when you’re grilling, there’s Granda Vivo’s Xapron line of handsome, artisanal, natural-leather aprons. Popular with restaurant chefs, and appropriately sophisticated for wearing in an outdoor kitchen, the handmade aprons come in several leather finishes and colors.
“People want to look classy while grilling,” says Gerben Verstraete, the Netherlands-based company’s U.S. representative. “These aprons are unique and offer the retailer the opportunity to make good margins.”
“All you really need is a pair of tongs,” says Max Lavoie, co-owner of House of BBQ Experts. “But the rest of this stuff makes grilling fun, so customers cook out more and keep coming back into the store.”
In other words, accessories are icing on the cake.