Outside chance: entering the age of the outdoor kitchen

Outdoor kitchens are a growing market for the UK – and an exciting added revenue stream for retailers. Lara Sargent asks: isn’t it time to take your expertise into the great outdoors and create a top-notch alfresco experience for your customer?

Although we don’t enjoy the sunny climates of countries like Australia or the US, consumer appetite for cooking, eating and entertaining outside is nonetheless on the rise in the UK. In fact, creating a permanent outdoor kitchen space has never been so hot. 

“The UK outdoor kitchen market is growing rapidly,” confirms Jonathan Stanley, vice president of marketing at Caesarstone UK. “One of the reasons behind this growth is the changing preferences of consumers. There’s an increased desire for year-round garden entertaining, driving a shift towards spaces for socialising and relaxation.”

Inspired by sedimentary limestone, Silvax is part of Caesarstone’s new Time collection

The premise has certainly catapulted outdoor kitchens into the consumer-buying conscience and offers a profitable add-on sale for the retailer. 

“With the correct shelter, lighting and heating, a UK outdoor kitchen  can certainly be used year-round and provide additional living space,” says Jo Bull marketing manager for KönigOutdoor. “Consider patio heaters or a fire pit and ensure that cooking and dining areas are well lit for outdoor feasts. We have clients who cooked their Christmas dinner in the garden!”

Installing outdoor kitchens that can be used for 12 months of the year – not just for a few warm weeks in the summer – is clearly a key requirement for today’s UK consumer. But the benefits of a well-designed cooking, eating and relaxing outdoor space also holds appeal for other reasons.

Blue skies

“They offer a seamless transition between indoor and outdoor areas, enhancing lifestyle options,” explains Simon Boocock, managing director of CRL Europe. 

“Heightened demand for exterior spaces that blend form and function, while seamlessly extending the home’s living space, is evident,” declares Tim Hutchinson, refrigeration divisional manager at Liebherr. “With the  economic crisis, there has been a notable shift in the ‘improve don’t move’ culture.”

Experts agree that this lifestyle shift for getting outdoors at home has also been propelled by TV cookery shows, the pandemic and the rise in hybrid working models.

“The ‘race for green space’ after the pandemic has brought a newfound appreciation to the garden, with several trends now coming together like biophilic design and sustainable living,” explains Simon Bodsworth, managing director at Daval, “these are helping to shape custom design schemes across the home.”

The data also paints this picture too. According to the team at comparison site Uswitch, outdoor kitchens were ranked the sixth most searched for home improvement project last year. Similarly, it wasn’t until the onset of the pandemic that Essex-based retailer Humphrey Munson saw an “unprecedented surge” for outdoor kitchens despite venturing into the market around a decade ago. 

Ricky Davies, MD of Sub Zero & Wolf UK and Europe agrees.

“We are seeing more kitchen companies offering outdoor solutions,” he says. “We weren’t seeing this three years ago.” Bespoke kitchen brand, Clive Christian, is also building on its Garden Kitchen concept with a new display at its London showroom.

“Outdoor spaces saw a huge evolution in the post-pandemic world,” says Oliver Deadman, head of design at Clive Christian. “While we can’t promise the weather in the UK, our outdoor furniture is ready no matter what the forecast.”

Outside influence

It’s clear that the gusto for indoor-outdoor living offers opportunities for the retailer, as Bull at KönigOutdoor says: “Outdoor kitchens are a great opportunity to add an additional revenue stream that doesn’t compete with anything else offered.”

So, how do you convince customers to upgrade from their humble barbecue to an all-singing, all-dancing garden kitchen complete with powerful grill, built-in fridge, wine cooler, ice maker and warming drawer?

Cosentino’s Dekton Ukiyo is suitable for both indoors and out

“The advancement of outdoor appliances makes it a usable space all year round,” explains Davies at Sub-Zero & Wolf UK and Europe. “These accessories and cupboards provide an extension of indoor cooking spaces, which allows more thought-out, advanced meals to be cooked in an alfresco environment.”

For the wannabe chef and homeowners who love to entertain, upgraded kit equals cordon bleu-style meals in the fresh air rather than burnt bangers and a warm beer.

While outdoor kitchens have historically been a luxury purchase (mainly because they were originally supplied from the US and came with import tariffs), increased product offers from European suppliers means more affordability for today’s UK customer.

“Outdoor kitchens have become more affordable, and this is likely to continue, making them a possibility for many more consumers,” clarifies Bill Miller, MD at the Kitchen Bathroom Buying Group (KBBG). 

Cost also comes down to the size of the kitchen, materials and equipment, adds Hege Lundh, marketing and business development director at Lundhs: “Outdoor kitchens can be both luxurious and budget friendly.”

Industry experts agree that outdoor kitchens are versatile and can work really well for different budgets and different sizes of garden. 

“The properties that we install our kitchens in are becoming more varied, from large fully functional pool-side kitchens to small urban roof terraces,” adds Bull at KönigOutdoor. “People are getting creative when home space is at a premium.”

While a stylish outdoor kitchen that reflects the interior of a property is high on consumers’ wishlists, choosing materials for their longevity and ability to withstand the elements is key – and will give consumers extra peace of mind for their investment. 

Retailer rewards

“Outdoor kitchens represent a smart investment, adding value to properties,” adds Caesarstone’s Stanley. “Of course, for the investment to be worthwhile, it’s essential to choose durable materials that can withstand outdoor conditions, ensuring long-lasting functionality.” 

As such, Sub-Zero and Wolf’s outdoor kit is made from quality grade 304 marine stainless steel; Humphrey Munson uses solid iroko drawers, doors and carcases and Clive Christian UV and saltwater-tested natural materials. Meanwhile, surfaces from the likes of Cosentino, Neolith and Caesarstone are non-porous
and weatherproof.

“Our sintered stones can withstand rain, snow, and humidity without warping, cracking, or fading over time, making it the ideal work surface for an outdoor kitchen,” explains Ross Stewart, senior sales manager for Neolith UK & Ireland. 

“Additionally, proper installation and maintenance  help ensure outdoor kitchens remain resilient in the face of British weather.” 

A key issue for the retailer is how to best display outdoor kitchens in their showrooms. For maximum impact, outdoor set-ups with working BBQs, grills and fridges will show off their features. For Clive Christian, that means a whole immersive experience ideally viewed by customers “through a pair of sunglasses, with a smoking grill and a full glass of something cold and bubbly!”

Outdoor kitchen by Humphrey Munson featuring a grill by Sub-Zero & Wolf

With no available outside space, the next best thing is to create an ‘outdoor feel’ indoors with plants, cedar wood panels or a photographic wall scene. And finally, for retailers thinking of taking the plunge into outdoor kitchens, industry insiders agree that research is key.

“Speak to your customers to gauge their interest in this type of product,” confirms Miller at KBBG. 

“Even a simple outdoor kitchen is going to retail for around £10,000 plus, so it is a considered investment. You’ll need to display at least one outdoor kitchen, so consider whether you have an outdoor space that is secure. If not, then you will need to create space inside your showroom, which will mean sacrificing an existing kitchen display.”

For all that, Davies at Sub-Zero & Wolf says just go for it: “Customers are now looking at retailers who can offer everything for their home and garden space – and the opportunity to upsell an outdoor all year-round kitchen is becoming much more popular.”

Food for thought…

Trends and tech cooking up a storm in the outdoor kitchen market...

PERSONALISATION with features found in indoor kitchens such as pull-out waste bins, lighting under breakfast bars, matching wall cladding and phone charging points

INTEGRATED APPLIANCES such as warming drawers which seamlessly blend in with the rest of the cabinetry

WOOD OR MARBLE EFFECT SURFACES which move away from industrial or concrete look materials

LUXE ADD-ON ZONES such as dining areas, pizza ovens, and cocktail stations for a full-blown alfresco entertaining hub

BLURRING INDOOR & OUT for a cohesive look using colours, texture, (including fluted surfaces) or shape
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