Which came first, BBQ Outlets or the (Big Green) Egg? For Surinder Multani, the answer was the egg. Over a decade ago, Multani bought his first home barbecue equipment, a Big Green Egg, and the purchase set him on a journey that would lead to the fast-growing BBQ Outlets brand that exists today.
Multani first got into barbecue after spending years traveling the United States as a software consultant, teaching businesses how to get their IT to work for them. While visiting a client’s home, Multani was blown away by the flavor of a smoked chicken, and resolved to try out the method at home. Barbecuing very quickly became a passion for Multani.
“The food that comes out from the smoker is so juicy,” Multani said. “It’s like peeling oranges, it’s so juicy.”
Multani has always been an entrepreneur. From the moment he decided to put down roots in Southern California, he has pursued diverse businesses in the area that would allow him to diversify his income while staying close to home and his family.
But his biggest epiphany came when Multani realized he could combine his passion, barbecue, with his business acumen to build a business he would be proud to represent every day. In Orange, California, in 2005, BBQ Outlets was born.
“It made sense,” Multani said. “I’m passionate about cooking, I’m passionate about those things.”
BBQ Outlets has since become a successful brand, opening up a second showroom in Corona, California, in 2010. But Multani is dreaming bigger. He wants to open more stores throughout the Sun Belt to spread the superior service and products that BBQ Outlets provides to more communities.
Even more exciting, he’s all in on e-commerce. After watching sales double during the pandemic, and noticing a friend’s online furniture store take off, Multani discovered there was a real market and appetite for high-quality BBQ offerings online.
“I realized hey, e-commerce is the way to go,” Multani says. “Then I started putting energy into expanding.”
The secret to Multani’s success comes from care and quality of service. He advises that “all sales are emotional,” and says that a good salesman should have a real connection with the products and consumers alike.
“You have to be passionate about cooking if you want to sell it,” Multani says. “If you have a story, if you have excitement, you can sell it.”
He says he’s eager to follow up with consumers via their chosen communication style, be it a phone call, email or text. Customers can fill out a contact form to hear from Multani or one of the other BBQ experts on the sales team if they want to learn more about how to build the backyard of their dreams.
Multani says when asked, he doesn’t tell customers his favorite product. Instead, he encourages them to consider their own vision and the qualities they’re looking for in a grill, and educates them on the best choice from there.
“I just try to give them solutions. When a customer walks into a store, they have a fuzzy idea, and I help them to decide,” Multani says. “When I start doing this, it clears their vision.”
Multani says he also gets deep satisfaction from helping consumers plan out their outdoor entertainment space. Early into the BBQ Outlets business, Multani realized that customers weren’t just buying a grill, they were looking for a way to connect with their friends and family through food outdoors.
Today, the BBQ Outlets showrooms help customers plan out their outdoor kitchen with their Free Design Services. Multani said he’s deeply satisfied with these projects because he likes to see something he helped create become reality.
“I’m a family-oriented person. I believe in family values,” Multani says. “If somebody has an outdoor area, they’re going to sit together, their kids are going to come, they’re going to get together around food, and that’s the most interesting thing.”
Beyond barbecue, Multani said he is in the business of connection. He thinks a combination of the pandemic and the polarized times we live in has made people yearn for a product that inspires the feeling of togetherness that a night of barbecue can bring.
Multani notes that even if you’re grilling in your own backyard, the scent of a carefully tended meal wafting from your home to your neighbor’s can be enough to entice them into a conversation, rising above the fence between you.
“When they smell something, they see the smoke is coming, it connects people,” Multani says.
Many of the skills that have allowed Multani to make so many dreams come true in the showroom have translated to business success as well. He’s eager to follow up with clients, he’s ambitious, and Multani’s background in software engineering means he knows how to tweak an online store on the back and front end to reach the maximum number of potential customers.
When it comes to advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs, Multani says it’s important to keep your skillset diverse and sharp, as you never know how one experience will inform the next.
He also says it’s important to be mentally present each day. Rather than stress about the future, it’s best to do whatever you can each moment to set yourself up for success down the road.
“Live in the moment,” Multani advises. “You can’t go back one moment ago, you can’t go in the future. Live in the now.”
As for grills and smokers, Multani has since expanded his home arsenal but still uses the first smoker he bought. He said his son now uses it too, a sure sign of a new family tradition.