All fired up
Spotting a gap in the Northern Ireland market for quality barbecues, accessories & fuel, Moira couple Roger & Emma Allen set up the Great Outdoors BBQ Co. three years ago & are steadily building custom in the hospitality sector
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO ESTABLISH THE GREAT OUTDOORS BBQ CO.?
Roger: We have always been passionate about barbecuing ourselves and do it all the time. Six years ago, we moved home to Moira from Liverpool and found there was a lack of quality products available. Even simple things like charcoal and wood, you’d have to buy online and either they wouldn’t deliver to Northern Ireland or the cost of delivery would be extortionate.
Buying a high-quality barbecue, pizza oven or smoker is like buying a car, you want to touch it and test it and would never buy it online. With the Kamado barbecues, they’re all averaging around £1,000 and you want to lift the lid and check the springs and have a good play with it and maybe light it up, which we’re happy to do here for our customers so they can see how easy it is.
We spent a year or so researching the market, and formed relationships with great brands like Monolith, Kamado Joe, Alfa, Napoleon, Petromax, Thuros, Jopser, Fogarty Ovens, Bertha Ovens, ROASTER Charcoal Ovens, Mobi Pizza Ovens and Primo.
Emma: It’s about quality, value for money and something different for Northern Ireland and even all-Ireland as well. There’s nothing like us in Northern Ireland, we’re quite unique.
BARBECUING HAS REALLY TAKEN OFF IN NORTHERN IRELAND
Roger: In the past five years, it’s just doubling every year in popularity and people are building outhouses or have sheds they’re converting to a man cave or barbecue shack or they’re putting an awning at the side of their house so they can stand out regardless of the weather. Everybody I know is barbecue mad and branching out.
WHAT OTHER PRODUCTS DO YOU SELL?
Roger: We have accessories across the brands we work with, for example the standard three-piece toolkits of tongs spatula and meat hook, chefs’ knives, mop brushes for basting, magnetic hooks, chopping boards, meat injectors, smoking racks, temperature probes and charcoal lighters. We also have an extensive range of camping equipment which sells really well.
We get our rubs and spices from Scotland, England and America, including Hardcore Carnivore imported directly from Austin, Texas and nobody else does it in Ireland. Bringing it in direct helps us keep our costs down, and our customers get charged a normal, respectable price.
HOW DID YOU BEGIN SUPPLYING THE HOSPITALITY TRADE?
Roger: Currently, 80% of our business would be consumer and 20% commercial, but we see it becoming 50/50. We have more brands coming on board, for example a company in Greece is sending us their high-end ROASTER Charcoal over for a few demonstrations, even though we’ve never met, but they can see from our website and active social media that we are a professional business.
The commercial side just happened from us selling charcoal to restaurants. We were bringing in a lot of charcoal people just loved, and selling it at a good price. We’re now supplying charcoal to, for example, Deanes, Bullitt and Edo in Belfast, Wine & Brine in Moira, Zio in Portadown, Galgorm Resort & Spa and the Bushmills Inn. And some of them have said, where were you five years ago as the difference in the charcoal is night and day.
That is where the catering side started to develop, supplying barbecues, pizza ovens and grills to the trade. We have been actively demoing, showing chefs how to use these ovens, which encouraged more brands to come on board with us with their commercial equipment such as the Alfa and Mobi pizza ovens.
WHAT IS THE HOSPITALITY TRADE SEEKING FROM BARBECUE EQUIPMENT?
Roger: It’s about cooking over live fire like searing to get that smoky flavour. We work with some restaraunts and hotels in Ireland to help them get the best equipment for the size of their restaurant.
The pizza ovens are proving popular with the restaurant trade as well, which we bring in direct from Italy.
IS HIRING AN OPTION FOR HOSPITALITY BUSINESSES NOT YET READY TO INVEST?
Roger: Yes, we have lent The StillHouse of Moira and Wine & Brine barbecues for some of their events. The StillHouse also hired a pizza oven for a few weekends last summer.
Emma: We see it as a possible growth area, hiring out a barbecue or pizza oven for parties or weddings.
HOW HAVE YOU BEEN PROMOTING THE BUSINESS?
Roger: We have also been doing a bit of event catering as well to get our name out, rather than to make money. We do a summer barbecue for Richmond Marketing and fundraisers at Portballintrae Boat Club, and the Moira Calling music festival.
For more info on The Great Outdoors BBQ Co visit www.gobbqco.com