Homeowners are always looking for ways to improve their kitchens. While expanding the footprint of the kitchen may be less in vogue due to the economy, outdoor kitchens are opening up a new world of entertaining possibilities.
“Creating the outdoor kitchen expands on an ideal home entertaining venue,” says Lara Snyder, brand manager for U-Line in Milwaukee, WI.
Much of the growth in this market can be attributed to increased awareness and popularity of outdoor living and outdoor kitchens. “What was once a Southwest and Sun Belt state trend has become a major category,” says Brian Eskew, marketing director for Lynx Professional Grills in Commerce, CA. “Outdoor kitchens are becoming convenient necessities for homeowners who want to make the most of the outdoor living season.”
Eskew believes that trade professionals are driving awareness of this category with their clients. “If you’re planning an outdoor living space, the outdoor kitchen is a must,” he says.
Outdoor kitchens and living areas have also proven to be a well-executed investment with high returns upon house appraisals when it comes time to sell the home. “Many people have become very mindful of investment versus return,” says Jason Grant, general manager, southern region, DCS Appliances in Huntington Beach, CA. “If homeowners cannot build or move to the home of their dreams, they will bring the home of their dreams to their current dwelling.”
Bigger is Better
With regard to trends in outdoor kitchens, probably the most obvious one, according to Pat Byrne, executive v.p. for Atlantis Outdoor Kitchens in Roanoke, VA, is larger and more expansive projects. “When we introduced Atlantis some five or six years ago, we thought the majority of installations would be a grill with a couple of cabinets on either side,” he says. “While we still sell that type of project, more of our orders are for much larger installations, with many cabinets and a number of outdoor appliances besides a grill – side burners, refrigerators, bar units, etc.”
Don Norton, regional sales manager for DCS Appliances agrees that “bigger is better” seems to be the trend. “As more accessory items become available, more users are turning their outdoor kitchens into their primary kitchen when the weather cooperates.”
Grant believes the outdoor living kitchen “is about creating an environment that adapts to your lifestyle. A complete outdoor kitchen allows homeowners to have access to all of their cooking needs outside their home.”
But Grant says that it’s about more than just cooking. The outdoor kitchen serves as a gathering place where friends and family can come together.
“People want to enjoy being outdoors with all of the conveniences of indoors,” says Brian Bevan, president, In & Out Cabinetry in Oneco, FL. “Rather than just cooking the food out on the grill and bringing it into the kitchen, they are bringing people to the outdoor area.”
Customers also want flexibility in their outdoor kitchen. While the grill is still at the heart, Lynx Professional Grills has increased its focus on the entertainment accessories, according to Eskew, with new category offerings such as outdoor heating and outdoor refrigeration to meet consumer needs.
Brent Spann, v.p. marketing for Eldorado Stone in San Marcos, CA adds: “We believe outdoor fireplaces, fire pits and water features will grow because they add value and beauty. They also extend the outdoor living experience.”
Elements such as fire and water not only add ambiance to an outdoor space, they draw people together. “I believe that products that incorporate these elements will grow significantly,” says Michael Zimber, president of Stone Forest in Santa Fe, NM. “Consumers are asking for more architecturally aesthetic pieces that add to the luxury of the outdoor kitchen experience,” he says.
Bringing the Inside Out