With the beginning of spring comes renewed energy and excitement. As snow melts (being Canadian means you must enjoy all 4 seasons since there’s no way around Old Man winter every year), the trees awake, the birds come back (or are just louder). For some, it becomes easier to get to their BBQ, while for others like my team and me, we plan a good spring cleaning of our equipment, because it continued burning all winter long!


Spring is also a reminder that we need to shake off the winter dust and shake up our teams. While winter is a great time to tackle little projects around the shop, we know spring will bring more customers through the door. We need to prepare to always ensure the best customer experience is delivered.

One of the low-hanging fruits I feel is important to remind our boutique’s manager and the sales team in turn, concerns inventory. There’s no better time than spring to go through your inventory and rotate. What do you want to propose as an attractive offer to customers, to help you free up shelving space in the warehouse or in the store? Are there replacement parts you know are in greater demand when the high season approaches?  Check your inventory, rotate it, stock up on what makes sense to your audience, and make sure your staff can guide customers well. If in doubt, role play – have your most knowledgeable staff answer tricky questions in front of the team to put words in their mouth, increase their knowledge and confidence with customers.

One of the objectives of a good sales team is not to make customers buy everything but to buy what they need.  Teach your staff to ask open-ended questions. Your customers are shopping for a new BBQ or BBQ products in your store because you offer quality and expertise. They know what they want when they walk in, or at least, they think they know. By finding out customers’ interests, you can help them push their limits by suggesting they try new things. Perhaps they are not comfortable smoking food on pellets or a charcoal BBQ yet? There is always the option to use a smoker box with wood chips. The flavours developed can still be very tasty.

I work closely with my staff to ensure everyone on the floor, from my most experienced guy to the newly hired cashier, knows about products, especially our most popular ones. We develop our own flavours to suit customers’ needs. We also like to take calculated risks, with our knowledge of the BBQ industry, with out-of-the-box tasting profiles, and guess what? Customers love it and new trends are set! There is always going to be a necessity for your teams, and mine, to know the basics of BBQ and the main categories. But don’t forget what will make your customers want to come back for more is the next level stuff. Be ready to talk about how to prep and smoke or slow cook a Texan style brisket, how to leverage the spring temperature for cold smoking, pairing of rubs, sauces and wood flavours, with the various meat types or cheese and nuts. This is what makes the customer’s experience memorable; what makes them come back.

With that said, when adding new consumable products to your inventory, it’s a good idea to crack open a bottle, taste it or even take turns with the staff bringing in meats that would have been cooked at home or on a BBQ behind the shop, to taste and experience first-hand what it is you will recommend. In spring, you still have time to do that.

Spring is for some the time to clean up the BBQ from on-going winter use or to shine it up again, ahead of the warmer weather coming. The same way we don’t appreciate a clothing salesperson telling us a suit looks great on us when it’s so obvious that the cut just doesn’t work with our body type, we need to be mindful that customers are not going to buy new BBQs every season. Instead of focusing on the big ticket items, perhaps approach them by introducing pitmaster techniques with meat injection, or just the basics of cooking to temperature versus time, reiterating the importance of owning a thermometer. Your customers will come to visit the store to fill up on their favourite charcoal, sauce or rub. Presenting new products, sharing BBQ recipes or ensuring the basics are covered to kick off the season, will create loyalty with your customer base and that’s how you will see them coming back all year-round.

Spring is exciting because in-store traffic increases by the day. Making sure your team on-site understands the needs of customers and is ready to add value and answer any type of question is essential. Your store is a destination to discover. Creating an experience for customers will guarantee the traffic is ongoing, especially when a big box banner pushes an aggressive marketing campaign or on rainy days. Be ready to welcome everyone as you gear up for the High Season!

Max Lavoie

President, House of BBQ Experts