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Product Innovation

Bull Outdoor Products: Ahead of Its Time

In 1992, before the outdoor-room trend was as popular as it is today, Mark Nureddine came up with an innovative concept for a company that truly was ahead of its time. With a strong background in design and construction, Nureddine founded Bull Outdoor Products Inc.®, one of the first companies to manufacture its own barbecue islands and grills in the United States. “Mark was part of the founding fathers of manufacturing barbecue islands and grills together in a plant, rather than on-site,” Frank Mello, vice president of sales and marketing, says.

Today, with two plants in Ontario, Calif., and Athens, Tenn., and approximately 100 employees, Bull Outdoor Products offers everything homeowners need to build their dream outdoor spaces.

“The most innovative factor about us is that we have it all,” Mello says. “Our customers can go to one source and outfit an entire outdoor kitchen from one manufacturer, including an island, stainless-steel grill and accessories, bar, fireplace and firepit,” he adds. Having so many options allows homeowners to create custom outdoor kitchens that reflect their space, design and lifestyle needs.

Island styles range from smaller versions with drop-in grills to large gourmet models with seating for the entire family and standard features that include custom tile tops, stucco bases in a choice of finish colors, stainless-steel grills with infrared backburners, stainless-steel refrigerators and sinks, storage drawers and GFCI outlets. Upgrade options include granite-tile tops, docking stations for MP3 players (with hidden speakers and a remote control), ice chests, side burners, umbrellas and more.

Mello suggests that dealers compare, for their customers, the benefits of purchasing a Bull outdoor kitchen versus building a custom kitchen on-site. Cost savings are one major advantage. Others are the vast experience and knowledge that the company has gained over the past 16 years by focusing on a niche. “Outdoor kitchens are our core business. We know what works and have seen all the problems that can arise because we build so many islands,” Mello says. “We build products so that when a consumer takes them home, they work—and people absolutely love them.”

Another innovation that Mello is proud to talk about is the uncomplicated installation of the company’s products. “We’re very focused on building products that are easy to install,” he says. “Our dealers can sell our products, deliver them and install them in a customer’s backyard easily. That’s not always the case with other islands.” Islands are delivered to the homeowner with removable tops, so the units can fit through tight spaces or gates for quick and painless backyard installation. Total setup often takes just under a couple of hours.

Dealer support and relationships are crucial to the success of any outdoor manufacturer. To that end, Bull commits the capital and space needed to keep its facilities well stocked to meet the order requirements of dealers located throughout the United States and Canada. The company also has a European distributor. “We store a lot of product in our U.S. warehouses to make sure that we can ship to our dealers throughout the season,” Mello says.

Sustaining dealer programs is paramount to Bull. “We follow through on the commitments we make to perform and execute our programs. That is huge to us,” Mello says. Bull also tailors and suggests marketing and merchandising programs based on a particular dealer’s customer base. “We like to develop our program one dealer at a time,” Mello says, explaining that the program will be based on the characteristics of the store’s existing and target customers.

The manufacturer also depends on its key retailers, its dealers and its three company-owned stores in the San Diego area for feedback and direction on its products. “We rely on these people to tell us what is (or is not) working,” Mello says.

The company’s support of its products and services also extends beyond its dealers. “We have fantastic warranties on our products,” Mello says. He stresses that after a dealer makes a sale of any Bull product, the company will provide follow-up support if needed. Consumers can call a toll-free telephone number and contact Bull directly for parts and questions. “We want to deal with the customers ourselves if there are any problems. We stand behind our products,” Mello says.

In addition to islands, the Bull Outdoor Products name is synonymous with high-quality stainless-steel grills. Equipment is a large part of the company’s business, and it offers a range of cart styles and grill heads with a host of accessories. Mello comments that Bull focuses on offering a high-quality product without a lot of fancy bells and whistles that can often end up breaking. “We build our grills so they last,” he says.

The faltering economy has not affected Bull’s bottom line with its specialty retailers and dealers. In fact, the company expects to double business in the next five years. “We see strength in our independent dealers,” Mello says. Ironically, he says that this vigor may be because of the sluggish economy. In tough economic cycles, weaker businesses often close and stronger dealers remain, filling in the void and increasing their sales.

Plans are in the works for new dealer programs and products to debut in the fall. Mello says that everyone, including Bull and its retailers, needs to continue to showcase and promote the complete outdoor-room concept in the winter months, when many people plan and buy for the spring and summer. Mello sees the outdoor kitchen as a desirable alternative to vacation travel as gas prices continue to rise (as do the expense and hassle of air travel). “One thing I know for sure is that Americans are excited about the outdoor room. It’s not going away,” Mello says.

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