You already know consumers are increasingly looking for the complete backyard package: A pool, spa, cooking area and entertaining space.
Likewise, a growing number of pool builders want domain over the entire outdoor living area. No longer content to dig a hole and move on to the next project, these contractors want to be one-stop shops serving all their customers’ backyard needs.
However, the outdoor kitchen eludes some pool builders who fear appliances, barbecue islands and countertop configurations are outside their expertise.
No need to feel intimidated. Outdoor kitchens are easier than you might think.
Here are five things you need to know to break into this booming market.
1. Outdoor Kitchen design is pretty straightforward
You don’t need to be an interior designer to plan a beautiful and functional kitchen. Before you begin designing, ask your clients how they plan to use the kitchen, how many people they expect to cook for, whether they entertain large numbers of people, and how much space they have available. That will lay the foundation and help your client choose one of four basic kitchen configurations:
Straight or island: Tight on space? A straight outdoor grill station or barbecue island will do the job. These can be built on the patio’s perimeter or along an existing exterior wall. Islands can be as small as 39-by-39-inches, large enough to accommodate a 21-inch electric grill with a small overhang for barstools.
Galley: This kitchen consists of an island and a bar or refreshment center running parallel to each other. This is another good option for the homeowner who wants to do some light entertaining with limited space.
L-shape: Consider this to anchor the corner of a medium-sized space. Here, cooks can demonstrate their grilling skills with guests seated at the left or right. Consider split-level counters for bar service.
U-Shape: The “U” could stand for ultimate. This configuration puts the grillmaster center stage. If your client has the square footage to spare, demands all the bells and whistles, and is a bit of a showoff in the kitchen, the U-shape is a must. This type of layout also offers a stronger definition between prep, cooking and wet zones.
2. You can do it yourself, from start to finish
As pool contractors have broadened the scope of their services, suppliers have responded with ready-to-assemble kitchen systems with high-end, built-in appliances. Depending on the complexity of the project, they can be installed in a few days or less. These units are customizable, made of engineered stone panels that can emulate most any material, such as river rock, stacked stone, rough-cut granite and even trendy barn wood. No footing or framework is required, either. That means no more chasing down masons or dealing with fabricators who might get the template wrong. You can control the whole process efficiently, in-house.
3. Pricing is easy
Your supplier should provide a design book with a pricing matrix, so you can easily calculate costs and profits. If your project calls for something outside the scope of those designs, you can come up with a linear-foot pricing structure factoring in construction, material and appliance costs. Even if a customer opts for more amenities, you can bake that into your per-foot cost fairly simply.
4. You can bundle
It’s not hard to train your sales force to entice customers with the prospect of a new kitchen to complement their new pool. Installing a kitchen during construction saves the contractor money. Offer to pass those savings on to the homeowner. Packaged properly, an additional $10,000 to $15,000 doesn’t add much to the homeowner’s total expense if they’re financing. If they decline, consider plotting a space around their poolscape where they can install a kitchen later. They’ll no doubt want one eventually.
5. The retrofit market is huge
We come from the outdoor-living industry, where 70 to 80 percent of the market is made of renovations. The advantage of a lightweight concrete structure is that it can be installed on any hard surface. The only challenge you may run into is utility connections.
Even if water and electricity aren’t available, your customer can operate the grill with liquid propane. And optional drop-in ice cooler or pullout ice chest will keep beverages cool without an electrical connection.
You’re in the business of creating stunning outdoor living spaces where people can swim, relax and entertain. Now, with simplified masonry structures, you can do everything in-house — including the kitchen sink.