Entertaining the outdoors was certainly not invented by the pandemic, but the way people now use their outside living spaces — often, and for a variety of situations — has evolved. Home prices are rising, and people are continuing to work from home in some capacity. Enjoying time together with family and friends, while also receiving the benefits of being out in nature, has never been more appreciated.
“Entertaining outside is not just a trend,” said David Pidgeon, president/CEO of Starpower. “It’s not like buying a pair of plaid pants and hoping that two years from now, plaid is still ‘in.’ Cooking and hosting outdoors is something that will continue to be enjoyable.”
What Consumers Want Outside
According to John Laing, director of appliances and outdoor at Nationwide Marketing Group, the term “outdoor appliances” applies to anything that helps a homeowner personalize their space for the best execution of cooking, cooking, serving, and overall usability. So it’s not just about having a top-notch grill or outdoor refrigerator; rather, consumers want their outdoor appliances to extend the look, feel, and function of their indoor space.
“Consumers are dedicating more time and effort into the ‘art of cooking,’” said Laing. “Both males and females have used their outdoor space to prepare foods more in the last two years than ever before. This has driven the desire to have multiple cooking apparatuses.”
It’s now common to see multiple grills with various fuel- type options like gas, lump charcoal, or electric. Reinforcing this trend, manufacturers are working on new products that give the consumer multiple options within one product. These homeowners also want those fun specialty products, like pizza ovens, kegerators, and rotisseries.
“Apart from investing in high-performing and durable appliances that are built to last, consumers are going the extra step to make their outdoor space their own, and opting to expand beyond just the grill,” said Jeff Sweet, corporate manager of product marketing at Sub-Zero Group, Inc. “From outdoor burners to warming drawers and ice makers, these extra features help consumers make the most of their outdoor spaces by adding functionality and convenience.”
Driving Technology into Outdoor Spaces
The outdoor kitchen has evolved into an extension of the indoor kitchen, so much of what is included inside is seeping outside. That also includes technology, for better or for worse.
“Technology is catching on slowly,” said Pidgeon. “In indoor appliances, tech that was announced in 2017 is just now taking effect. I think you’ll see the same type of rollout in outdoor appliances.”
The main problem with this slow adoption is the supply chain issues, which might contribute to the delay in consumers buying connected outdoor appliances. However, manufacturers are still offering tech in appliances where it truly matters.
“The best use of technology has come with the advent of the pellet grill,” said Laing. “While pellet grills have been around for more than 30 years, it wasn’t until recently that manufacturers have incorporated smart tech.”
All leading brands in this category now provide the ability to cook, monitor, and adjust grills from afar, which is helpful in long, slow barbecues and roasts. It also simplifies the process and therefore opens up the playing field for a larger variety of consumers to take on the challenge of being the neighborhood pitmaster.
“People are planning their outdoors differently because of delays in shipments and supplies, so you want to get a customer committed to an outdoor space early on,” said Pidgeon. “They are taking their outside spaces seriously.”