Pool and spa pros know that pandemic-weary homeowners have been more bullish than ever on adding pools over the last several years. But, while that demand continues, pool industry experts and industry watchers warn that it may be slowing amid fears about recession and inflation.
That’s why it’s more vital than ever for pool and spa pros to expand their offering to include the entire backyard experience. "The design really needs to be intentional and the entire backyard should come into play," said Skip Phillips, International Vanishing Edge Education Program Instructor and Questar Pools’ owner and founder.
One area that homeowners seem particularly interested in is a backyard amenity many pros may not have capitalized on yet—outdoor kitchens.
A recent National Kitchen & Bath Association report showed that 60% of homeowners are looking to add an outdoor kitchen in 2022. Additionally, a 2021 survey conducted by International Casual Furnishings Association found that "90% of Americans with outdoor living space have been taking greater advantage of their decks, porches and patios, and consider their outdoor living space is more valuable than ever before." Other findings from that survey include:
- Americans do not just want their decks, patios and porches to be aesthetically pleasing showpieces; they want to get actual use out of them. Over half of Americans (53%) want to create enjoyable and functional spaces. Other top reasons include the ability to entertain (36%) and to create a private retreat (34%). Only a quarter want to upgrade their outdoor spaces to add value to their homes (25%).
- While building equity is great, most Americans are more interested in creating spaces that work for them now. Three-quarters (74%) of Americans use their patios for relaxation, while nearly three in five use them for socializing with family and friends (58%). Over half (51%) use their outdoor spaces for cooking.
For homeowners, the concept of an outdoor kitchen has also expanded, according to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association.
"It's not just about grills; it's the whole outdoor kitchen. While grill sales and usage remain at all-time highs, customers are expanding their patio vision to incorporate full backyard kitchens, including premium counters, refrigerators, grills, smokers, stovetops and, yes, even the kitchen sink," according to an HPBA report.
"After two years spent at home more than ever, consumers recognize the opportunities a fully functioning backyard can bring and are responding by not just updating their grill, but also going all-in on a full kitchen," said Jack Goldman, president and CEO of Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association.
Here are four key outdoor kitchen trends the HPBA said pool pros should take note of:
- Portable returns. "With people on the move more—vacations, picnics, road trips, tailgating, camping and beyond—portable grill and smokers are back in fashion to meet our more mobile lifestyle," Goldman said. And they come in all styles and formats – gas, charcoal, pellet, kamado and electric.
- Patio furniture goes sleek. The newest lines of backyard patio furniture are looking more and more like indoor furniture—sleek, modern and minimalist. "Gone are the bulky benches and puffy cushions of the past," Goldman noted. "Consumers continue to view their backyard patio as an extra, extended room to their house, and the design patterns of that outdoor room are beginning to mirror the indoor."
- Cast iron in focus. While forward-looking innovations make up most of the trends, nostalgia still plays an essential role in our perception and purchase of grills. This year's nod to the past is a return to cast iron—whether it's increased sales for cast iron skillets or griddles, or grills that either feature cast-iron finishes or have deep black exteriors that mimic the always dependable and hard-working cast iron materials.
- Pizza ovens are hot. Brick and stone-built pizza ovens are most popular and often come with space for storing wood for added convenience. Aside from the unique taste that pizza ovens bring to the table, the open flames provide the perfect ambiance for your outdoor space, no matter what the toppings may be