By Gerald Dlubala
How important is it for a facility to provide permanent grills for public use? Just ask the experts.
“It’s part of the American identity to have a grill,” says IBISWorld, a global intelligence business leader specializing in Industry Market Research.
With 75% of Americans having a grill at their disposal, and almost half of those grilling more than once per week, barbecue is ingrained into our weekly meal planning and preparation.
As a park, facility, or multifamily housing manager, this information should speak to you regarding the amenities you offer.
If you want to keep up with public trends and expectations, one area to improve on is the accessibility you provide to better, larger, and more enjoyable grilling experiences by adding permanent grills to your location.
In case you haven’t noticed, barbecue is big. Very big, actually, and growing in popularity. In fact, so many people are jumping into the grilling fire that the barbecue industry is recording a higher growth rate than the mobile phone industry.
Just let that sink in. And even though the mobile phone industry seems to be updating and releasing new products by the minute, the business of barbecue has a much larger net worth as well.
In the US alone, grill manufacturers have registered $1.44 billion annual sales last year, and are estimating a cool $2 billion for 2017. Reasons for this tremendous growth are numerous:
- Barbecue competitions. “It may be the hottest and fastest growing sport in the nation”, according to Amazing Ribs, one of the best and most referenced pure barbecue websites. With more than 500 barbecue contests in the US, more if you want to include the amateur and locally organized contests, barbecue is now something to do on the weekends, much like any other activity that people become passionate about. And with contests being available up to 40 weekends a year if you choose, some offering up to a five -figure winner’s purse, it’s become a way to make extra money doing something you love.
- Barbecue in the media. Born from the increased popularity of competitions, barbecue and grilling related shows on Food Network, Cooking Channel and Destination America consistently remain some of the highest rated. By watching shows like BBQ Pitmasters, BBQ Pit Wars, Man Fire Food, and Bobby Flays Barbecue Addiction, amateur grillers are now seeing a wide variety of both food and drink being prepared on the grill.
- Millennials have been brought up with these types of shows and are now the biggest promoters of barbecue, trying to replicate the new dishes and trends that they are seeing from the network experts. If the grill is available, they’re not afraid or intimidated to use it. As Dave Anderson, nationally acclaimed owner/Pitmaster of Famous Dave’s says, “With YouTube, the availability of just about anything about barbecue is only a keyboard touch away. There are no more barbecue secrets.”
Permanent grills meet this growing demand
It’s no longer a question as to if someone is going to grill. Barbecue is now a given.
Now it’s about getting the most out of the grilling experience. One of the most successful grill companies, Weber-Stephen Products, recently stated that, “Staying on top of trends and what our customers want is a huge priority for us.”
This statement holds true for park, facility, and multifamily residence managers as well. It’s important to keep up with the grilling and barbecue boom, and make sure you have the permanent grills and available space that allows for the best possible grilling experience. Go to a park on any weekend, and it’s highly likely ALL the grills will be occupied and in use. In fact, the demand is so high that people are grabbing public charcoal grills first thing in the morning. This can lead to scores of frustrated grillmasters if grills are not available.
The skyrocketing growth in the grilling and barbecue industry is expected to continue to grow, in part due to the following observations:
- The ability to grill is not measured by the neighborhood you live in or your social class. It is an activity for everyone.
- Commercial charcoal grills are now more functional, supporting culinary creativity. With the availability of accessories and gadgets like instant read thermometers, pizza stones, woks, searing grates and other specialized pans and holding racks, the grill isn’t reserved for just burgers and dogs anymore. More food choices mean more meals can be prepared on them, increasing the frequency of grill use.
- Grill Durability. With new materials and manufacturing processes, permanent grills can now be suited to the specific environment and conditions under which they will be used. Newer designs featuring weather resistant finishes are a massive improvement for those that live in harsher, seasonal, or more varied climates.
- Fuel Sources. With fuel sources such as charcoal, gas/propane, pellet, wood, and even infrared and hybrid models, there’s a grill out there to fit your space restrictions while remaining legal and code compliant.
- Increased Versatility of Grills. Whether it’s a traditional, open fire grill, ceramic or drum smoker, a kettle type grill, or a grill featuring flameless infrared cooking, or a even a combination of these, it’s easier than ever to find a grill suited to the type of cooking you’re interested in. The increased availability of mobile, tailgate type grills in whatever colors you desire increase the appeal of grilling.
Realize and act on grilling trends
For multifamily housing managers, these types of trends, if responded to, will help to draw and keep quality tenants. Because of restrictive rules and regulations concerning individual grills, it’s important that apartment and multifamily housing managers provide, at the bare minimum, a common, permanent grilling space for use by the tenants. Shared space commercial charcoal grills and designated grilling areas will also promote community and neighborly interaction.
Park and public facility managers can also use trends like this to outfit their public grilling areas with the proper type, size and amount of permanent grills to support the needs of their visitors. With the boom in grilling frequency and diversity showing no signs of slowing, the time is now to assess your situation and make the move to install quality park grills or upgrade to larger grills to accommodate expected use.
So what can you do to stay invested in the grilling needs of your community?
- Install quality, fixed base, and weather resistant permanent grills. Whether for a quick, weeknight grill or a planned get-together with friends or family, a durable, grill installed in a convenient, easily accessible location will be used more, providing users memorable experiences.
- Add grills, or upgrade to larger, multi-user, premium commercial charcoal grills for larger parties, get-togethers, team barbecues or family milestones. With premium grills, you can be assured that everyone that wants to grill will have the grill space and cooking surface area needed while using the shared venue.
- If you install and maintain these permanent grills in an area that you have designated for grilling, you will discourage the transportation and use of personal grills, which can be safety hazards and against code in many situations. Use open spaces with picnic tables and pavilions that naturally attract visitors. Outfit the area with accompanying hot coal containers and trash receptacles conveniently located to complete the grilling area. The more extras that are provided, the more likely the space is to be used, maintained and cared for.
- Larger, premium grills with more cooking surface will make your park or facility the go-to place for barbecue related events. The availability of larger, premium grills makes it easier to host regular events like family, neighborhood or community cook-offs, giving bragging rights to the winning grill master. These types of open air, barbecue events will increase and build on family values, community awareness and neighborly friendship, resulting in a stronger, tighter, and safer neighborhood.
- Larger, premium grills are considered an amenity in multi family housing situations, and can help you keep and draw quality tenants. In a park or public facility situation, larger permanent grills installed in public gathering areas will help your venue with increased traffic flow and recognition as a preferred event space.
As a park, facility, or multi-family unit manager, it’s critical to stay on top of both local and national trends, because they will affect how you can more successfully interact with your tenants, park and facility users.
Barbecue is one of those strong trends, but not the traditional burgers and dogs barbecue. Modern day barbecue is not just pouring lighter fluid over corner store charcoal.
It’s all about different and unique meats and veggies, it’s low and slow, and it’s complemented with complex sauces, varieties of wood flavors, and social media worthy appearance.
It’s about following the lead of those Food Network Stars. But most importantly, it’s a popular trend that may not be possible on the grills that you currently provide for use by your tenants or the general public.
“We’re definitely seeing a trend where clients are ordering more permanent grills and larger grills,” said Carrie Georgopoulos, senior executive with The Park and Facilities Catalog. “It’s obvious the demand is growing and if a park or facility wants to be popular with the public, this is definitely one strategy they should use.”
Remember, this is also the age of social media where people like to boast and post about their barbecuing skills as well.
By adding larger, permanent grills that will support the newest barbecue trends, your building, park, or public facility will be highly valued, more visited, more desired and more publicized.