At long last, there is a product on the market that bridges the gap between grill carts and custom outdoor kitchens.
I’m speaking of the prefabricated outdoor kitchen island. For approximately half of what a custom cooking space costs, prefab units have emerged as an affordable alternative without skimping on the accoutrements serious grillers have come to expect.
This development is important for two reasons. First, it opens the market to prospective customers who otherwise couldn’t afford an outdoor kitchen. Second, pool and spa dealers who’ve been hesitant to expand into this category can finally do so with minimal investment.
Since this type of kitchen has become a viable choice for the budget-conscious, we’ve been fielding a number of FAQs from prospective dealers, which I’ll answer here.
Who wants to buy an instant island?
Older millennials (say, 30- to 34 years old) or first-time homebuyers represent a ripe market. Some reports have suggested that younger buyers place a premium on lifestyle amenities. An area for casual cookouts would rank high among their desires. However, their aspirations sometimes exceed their financial realities, which is what makes the prefab kitchen a great entry-level option.
We’ve also seen Gen Xers and baby boomers gravitate toward these turnkey kitchens. Like the aforementioned millennials, they’re drawn to the lower price point, but they also take other factors into consideration. Some of these experienced buyers don’t want the hassle of a major backyard construction project. They simply want something that’s easy to install, but with more accessories and oomph than your average grill cart provides. That’s where the prefab kitchen really delivers. They can be assembled in less than an hour with one common fastener. Simply attach it to a natural gas line or a propane tank (with optional LP conversion kit) and you’re grilling.
It’s been our experience that those who are buying these kitchens have household incomes of around $175,000 to $200,000.
Will serious cooks like it?
Performance isn’t compromised in the slightest in an outdoor island. Many models come with ample storage and prep space to satisfy most outdoor chefs. Common features include a built-in grill head and sideburners, drop-in ice chest and even a refrigerator on some models. These parts can be easily replaced if something goes wrong. And with an internal GFCI electrical outlet, you can plug in a blender, radio or other device.
Is it customizable?
Again, the idea is to offer something that’s essentially plug-and-play, so customization is pretty much limited to color options. In this way, the prefab island is similar to a portable spa. And like a spa, it can be integrated beautifully within a patio space. We’ve seen some stunning installations that include rock or brick surrounds and marble countertops with barstools, making the grill a true entertainment hub.
Plus, as the prefab category matures, there could eventually be options to add components such as a side table or a bar center.
How can I sell it?
Because this is a relatively new product, many consumers are still under the impression that custom kitchens are their only choice. But awareness is growing, especially in the Midwest and Southwest where the outdoor room concept has really taken hold. So it may take some savvy marketing to move these units out of the showroom. Dealers have had great success hosting barbecue events at their stores to entice prospective customers.
And because these units aren’t fixed in place, they can be positioned in different areas of your showroom to be included in vignettes with patio furniture, inviting prospective customers to sit a spell and envision the island in their backyards. That’s what makes this an easier investment for dealers who may only want to dip their toes in the outdoor kitchen business. No need to construct an elaborate display to showcase cooking appliances.
Which leads me to another selling point: When homeowners move, they can take their outdoor island with them.
Try doing that with a custom kitchen.
Butler is the general manager of Saber Grills. He has 24 years of experience in the gas grill industry. He’s more likely to be found cooking outside than inside.