Are Garden Centres Making the Most of the Growing Outdoor Cooking Market?

Barbecuing has hit mainstream TV and is no longer just being relegated to the cookery channels. You can buy pulled pork ready meals in supermarkets. KFC has a pulled chicken burger. Michelin starred chefs have BBQs in their kitchens. There are a growing number of high quality barbecue and smoking restaurants in the UK. Barbecue festivals are becoming big business.

So my question is, why are Garden Centres not cashing in and making the most of this growing market? Garden Centres are perfectly placed for promoting and selling outdoor cooking – they have the available outdoor space and the public automatically think of garden centres when looking for barbecues.

Cornelius Veakins Outdoor BBQ Chef


I love Weber and Napoleon barbecues, probably the two biggest players in the UK market for both gas and charcoal. Most barbecuers start on these. Their kit and accessories are fantastic quality but there is so much more to outdoor cooking than 44buying your Weber/Napoleon range every year and putting it in the middle of your garden centre. Excuse me – but this is lazy buying. This is too easy. This is not understanding your market nor understanding the changes that are occurring nor capitalising on this lucrative opportunity. Barbecuing is only an aspect of this market – alfresco cooking is where we are all going.

It’s Farm Shops and Stove Shops that have understood the value of this market and there are some excellent examples of certain retailers making a lot of money from this. But Garden Centres are better placed to become outdoor cooking/barbecue centres – but so few are.

1. Where is the rest of the kit?

There is such a wide range of kit in the market and a retailer (any retailer) needs to understand which is the best for their customers. Ceramic Kamado Barbecues; Wood Fired Pizza Ovens; Hot Smokers; Cold Smokers; Lump Charcoal range; Smoking Wood Range; Drum BBQs; Asado; alternative Gas Barbecues; Pellet Smokers; Braai ..the list goes on.  It’s understanding your market and providing the most appropriate outdoor cooking kit available for all budgets and tastes.

How can you be an outdoor cooking/barbecue centre without understanding and having the right range of kit? It’s like selling plants but leaving out your flowers! Weber and Napoleon have their place but it’s only a part of the story.

2. The best way to sell is through demonstrations.


Riverside Garden Centre

The best way to sell is to have live demonstrations and show the true versatility of outdoor cooking. Build an all year round Alfresco Kitchen and start cooking – you can get your restaurant chef involved and start incorporating your alfresco kitchen with your restaurant. Start cold smoking and serve your own smoked salmon, do Low ‘n’ Slow pulled pork and serve authentic pulled pork sandwiches. The margins on wood fired pizzas are insane! Incorporating your Alfresco Kitchen with your restaurant is the best way to sell the kit, customers will see it in action, eat the food and buy!

4. Outdoor cooking is not just about burgers and sausages.

Garden Centres have understood the need to have excellent restaurants and cafes, this brings in customers. The same applies to the recipes cooked on your outdoor kit – think creatively and your customers will see the full value of outdoor cooking. If you demonstrate the full potential of the kit, price becomes less of a barrier to sales.

5. Why start heavily discounting your kit before summer is finished?

We are in August and already end of season sales are cropping up all over the country from small shops to the big multiples. Even worse, Garden Centres take down their display for the winter season. Outdoor cooking is all year round, not just for summer. Most outdoor kit is built to be used in all weathers and if you demo all year round then people will buy all year round. Imagine outdoor cooking the Christmas turkey – imagine selling kit as Christmas presents.

6. You can’t sell outdoor cooking kit if you don’t know how to use it.


I’ve spent time with sales people in garden centres and I’m generally disappointed with their lack of knowledge and expertise. Imagine AGA having sales teams who don’t have an in-depth training in AGA cooking! How can you give the best service to your customers without real expertise? Selling outdoor cooking kit is more than just selling products, it is about selling a lifestyle and if your sales team don’t cook and demonstrate a passion for outdoor cooking – why do you expect you customers to buy?


7. Set up outdoor cooking courses.

Cornelius Veakins Independent Outdoor BBQ Chef Consultant

If you’ve built an Alfresco Kitchen then start getting customers in to learn how to outdoor cook/barbecue, there are so many courses you can create (barbecuing, pizza making, bread making, butchery, knife skills, American barbecuing…) and sell them to the public and then watch them buy! People’s biggest barriers to barbecuing and outdoor cooking is not understanding the basics and getting the best out of their kit. So make it easy for them to learn.

8. Incorporate the rest of your outdoor products into your Alfresco Kitchen.


It is all about selling a lifestyle so incorporate all your garden furniture, plants, fire pits, tables, lighting, kitchenware, herbs. You are creating the opportunity to upsell on all your products. Create the best interactive display and make it an all year round attraction.


If you’ve read this and are interested in making the most of your Garden Centre then please contact me. I’d love to show you how you can better serve your customers, become an Outdoor Cooking Centre and increase your sales.