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How Does an Outdoor Kitchen Pay for Itself?

By James King

October 28, 2022

You may want an outdoor kitchen… But you’re not sure if it’s worth the cost.

It’s a fair point!

When you’re spending thousands of dollars on a backyard upgrade… You want it to be worthwhile!

So, how can you determine that an outdoor kitchen is a valuable project?

Well… One way is to calculate how an outdoor kitchen pays for itself!

Interestingly, there are four different avenues we can take to arrive at this number. Some are direct… Others indirect.

Without further ado, let’s begin!

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people at their outdoor kitchen on deck

Daily Cost Breakdown of an Outdoor Kitchen

mike pyle modern large u shaped outdoor kitchen with pizza oven and bar seating

We’ll start off with the most straightforward.

Over the lifetime of ownership… What is an outdoor kitchen costing you every day?

By understanding the daily cost… You can understand the value compared to other forms of entertainment.

We’ll preface this by saying that the daily cost breakdown can vary widely.

If you choose a poor quality outside kitchen… You may save money at first. However, the shorter lifespan will drive the daily cost up.

For the sake of our example… We’ll be basing the calculation off of a high quality, long-lasting outdoor kitchen. (A high quality outdoor kitchen should last at least 20 years.)

Let’s start the tabulations.

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Crunching the Numbers

As already mentioned… A high quality outdoor kitchen should last at least 20 years!

So we’ll be calculating the daily cost over the course of 20 years to be conservative.

Of course, the size of your outdoor kitchen will impact the daily cost as well. Let’s quickly review the average cost for each layout:

Straight Island: $5,000-$12,000

L-Shape or Galley Island: $12,000-$18,000

U-Shape Island: $18,000-$35,000

Quite a sizable range, right?

Let’s see how that breaks down across the span of 20 years.

A straight island will cost you anywhere from $0.68-$1.64 a day. An L-shape will run you $1.64-$2.46 a day… And a U-shape will cost $2.46-$4.79 a day.

Every day for 3,700 days… You’re paying $0.68-$4.79 on a high quality outdoor kitchen!

When you look at it this way… It’s not much, is it?

Actually, it falls right in the range of that daily coffee from the local cafe! (Or even less!)

Speaking of that daily cup of coffee…

Let’s see how that daily cost compares to other common forms of entertainment.

Daily Cost of an Outdoor Kitchen vs Other Entertainment

graphic showing movie ticket cost versus outdoor kitchen cost

If you’re wanting to enjoy an evening out… You might want to head to the local movie theater.

Today, the average movie ticket cost is $9.57. Of course, that number will multiply if you’re paying for friends or family.

So if you’re paying for a family of four… It’s nearly $40 for a single night of entertainment.

And yes, it’s usually a once in a while cost… But it’s still a great demonstration of the point.

A single movie ticket is 2x-14x more than the daily cost of an outdoor kitchen!

Instead, you could even enjoy a movie seated at your island!

If you have a bar island and TV outside… Just get some fresh popcorn cooking and press play!

Now, let’s look at a slightly longer-term form of entertainment.

vacation package cost versus outdoor kitchen cost at airport terminal

Vacations.

When traveling within the domestic US… The cost of a week-long vacation for one person is around $1,588.00. For two people, it’s $3,116. (And for a family of four, even more!)

Now, we’re not trying to undercut the value of a vacation. It’s a great experience for all… Especially if you’re headed to a new location!

However, you’re burning at least one grand for a week of relaxation. Just 7 days! (That’s $226.00-$445.14+ a day!)

Whereas if you invest in an outdoor grill station… You can have that same level of relaxation from home. And for far less of a daily cost!

An outdoor kitchen is a source of entertainment you’ll have for years. Not days.

And while there is a small daily cost for a grill island… You’ll actually end up saving money in the long run!

Save Money Not Eating Out

restaurant table with image behind showing cost of eating at a restaurant versus making food at home at your outdoor kitchen

Arguably… Eating out is one of the most popular recreation activities out there. But it deserves special mention.

Because of course… There’s not just the social aspect of eating out to contend with. It’s also the food that you’re consuming.

It’s no secret that eating at a restaurant comes with a significant markup. But you might not be sure how much more you’re actually paying.

On average, restaurants are charging a 300% markup on their meals.

And with the average restaurant meal costing about $13… Right there, you’re paying $8.60 just in markup. (That’s 1.79x-12x the daily cost of an outdoor kitchen!)

So if you made that very same meal on your BBQ island… You’d be saving money, even when factoring in daily outdoor kitchen cost!

It might not seem like much… But let’s extrapolate this over time.

Most Americans eat out 5.9 times a week. Yes, nearly every day!

We’ll round this number up to 6, just for the sake of simplicity.

In a year, the average American will spend $4,056.00 on restaurant meals. And remember… This is just for one person! If you’re paying for a spouse or children, the total will multiply.

Just by using your summer kitchen instead of eating out… You’ll save $2,704.00 a year in restaurant markups.

So depending on how much you’re eating out and the cost of your grill island… Your outdoor kitchen could pay for itself in as little as one year!

And that leaves two decades or more of pure savings. Starting to sound like a pretty good deal, right?

Current events compound these effects even further.

Effects of Inflation on Food Prices

An unfortunate reality of the past few years has been inflation. And everyone has been feeling the squeeze.

While the cost of nearly all consumer products continues to rise… None are felt quite so acutely as your grocery bill.

In the year of 2021… The cost of groceries rose 6.8% (and continues to rise today). 

It’s true, your dollar doesn’t stretch as much as it used to.

And while there’s not much you can do to bring down that grocery bill… It’s never been more important to cut spending on eating out.

Think about it. With the price of food constantly going up… You’re going to pay a 300% markup on inflated prices at a restaurant.

That’s a big deal!

To demonstrate… Let’s repurpose that yearly cost of eating out. When you take that $4,056.00 total and account for 6.8% inflation…

That means you’re paying an additional $275.81 a year for the same exact meals you were getting before.

And again, this is only for a single person. The more people you’re paying for, the more it multiplies!

As inflation continues to rise… Your outdoor kitchen will not just become more valuable. It will pay for itself quicker… And even save you a ton of cash in the long run!

It’s clear the math makes sense. But at this point you might be wondering… “Why don’t I just buy a grill instead of a full outdoor kitchen?”

Well… Let’s discuss.

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Standalone Grill Value

man cooking at standalone gas grill

While you could buy a grill and get some of the same benefits…

The value of a standalone grill vs an outdoor kitchen is hardly comparable!

There’s the value you receive in terms of functionality and convenience… And the value from a monetary perspective.

We’ll start with functionality and convenience.

Let’s say you opt for a grill cart.

Sure, it’s functional. However, it’s like purchasing a dining table without chairs… 

You can use it, but it’s not the full experience.

A standalone grill won’t come with counter space, bar area, seating area, or other outdoor appliances. No refrigerator, sink, or trash bin, either.

Very quickly… Cooking a full meal on a grill will become cumbersome. (Or even impossible!)

And when cooking outdoors isn’t convenient… You won’t do it as much. Which leads to bigger bills from eating out!

Same goes for hosting or other outdoor entertainment. 

A grill cart gives you zero hosting functionality. Which means… You can say goodbye to saving cash with a backyard movie night and staycations!

The monetary value is nothing to write home about, either.

Yes, there will be far less of an up-front investment. But should you decide to sell your grill in the future… You’ll also recoup far less of your initial investment. (If any at all!)

Point is…

A standalone grill won’t add value to your home. And it likely won’t save you much money, either!

Especially when you factor in repair and replacement costs.

Repair & Replacement Cost of a Standalone Grill

economy grill cart made with 430 stainless steel

More than likely… If you’re purchasing a grill, you expect it to last a long time.

It’s a reasonable expectation!

With a built-in grill for an outdoor kitchen… You can get decades of use out of a high-quality option.

Not so with a standalone grill.

Why?

Let’s use gas grills as the primary example. (They’re the most popular choice among homeowners.)

On average, you’ll only get about 5-15 years of use  with a standalone gas grill.

Already, you’re dealing with a shorter lifespan.

Even if your grill does pass the 15 year milestone before sputtering out… You will certainly have multiple repairs to contend with.

The three most common?

  1. Burners
  2. Cooking Grates
  3. Fire Box

The next question is how often you’ll have to replace the above parts.

While good burners and cooking grates can last 5 years… And a good fire box can last 10 years

Most homeowners that use their grill often will find themselves replacing parts as often as every 2-3 years

For replacement costs… A single tube burner will run you anywhere from $50-$100+. So on a four burner grill… You’re paying $200-$400 in replacements every 2-5 years.

rusted grates on low quality modular kitchen

Cooking grates are similar in price. You can pay anywhere from $50-$125+ for a single set. So tack on another hundred to your bill!

That leaves the fire box.

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do if and when this part rusts out. When it fails… Your grill becomes unsafe to use.

And at that point… You’re better off replacing your grill than attempting to repair it.

Now, you might be fully prepared to take on this replacement expense!

Yet, there’s another thing to consider. 

Grill cart manufacturers are constantly updating their product lines. Which means… Your grill can quickly become obsolete. (And buying replacement parts are out of the question!)

So either way… You’ll be starting off at square one. 

Not only do cart grills often turn into a money pit… They don’t offer the same performance of a high quality built-in grill. 

Built-in grills tend to have superior features, higher quality burners, and a higher BTU count per burner. (All of which lead to better food!)

And when you factor in the lack of convenience… A grill cart is simply not worth it compared to an outdoor kitchen with a premium built-in grill.

This is further exacerbated by a lacking warranty.

Standalone Grill vs Built-In Grill Warranty

A good warranty can prevent you from dishing out a ton of cash if something goes wrong.

So needless to say… You want a good warranty on your grill.

Unfortunately… Most economy standalone grills cannot compete with a premium built-in grill on this level.

We will admit, some brands offer better warranties than others!

For example… Weber offers a 10 year warranty on most of their grills.

Char-Broil drops theirs down to 5 year coverage on the burners, 2 years on the fire box, and 1 year on all other parts.

Nex-Grill drops it down even further on some of their grills. Some models are only offered a blanket 1 year warranty.

Very quickly… Your grill’s warranty will expire. Then you’re on the hook for repairs and replacements!

It couldn’t be more different with a built-in grill for an outdoor kitchen.

Generally speaking… The minimum warranty is 10 years.

The best built-in grills will come with a lifetime warranty.

And while you’ll pay more upfront… In the long run, you’ll save yourself a boatload of money. (And headaches!)

So now that we’ve demonstrated why outdoor kitchens with a built-in grill offer superior value…

How does that translate to the return on investment?

What the Appraisers Say about ROI

While we’re confident that an outdoor kitchen will pay for itself… We decided to reach out to the experts!

Real estate agents and appraisers, to be exact.

In particular… There are 7 professionals we want to highlight for their expert feedback on outdoor kitchen return on investment (ROI).

And even though we heard from appraisers from every corner of the country (Wisconsin, Texas, Florida, Virginia, and Washington)… There was a fairly tight consensus on the value of an outdoor kitchen!

Everyone we spoke to agreed the low end of outdoor kitchen island ROI begins at around 50%.

The high end is where you see some variance. Some agents say it’s around 100%… While others say it could be as high as 200%-300%.

As Kate Diaz of Swanky Den states, “Depending on the features included, an outdoor kitchen can have an ROI of anywhere from 100% to 300%.”

If your outdoor kitchen has a lot of high-demand features… It will command a higher return on investment!

These percentages sound great… But how does that break out in actual dollars and cents?

Let’s use a 50% ROI as an example.

“This means that if you spend $10,000 on your outdoor kitchen, you can expect to see a $5,000 return on your investment when you sell your home”, Matt Teifke of Austin Real Estate Brokerage shares.

And if you manage to snag a higher ROI percentage… Your outdoor kitchen can literally pay for itself. (And more!)

But even at the average of a 50% return… Recouping half of your investment is nothing to shake a stick at!

At the same time… You might be curious about the return on other outdoor living projects.

Is there another option that has a better ROI than an outdoor kitchen?

Let’s see.

Outdoor Kitchen ROI vs Other Projects

Here’s where the consensus begins to splinter.

The professionals we heard from have a varied range of perspectives on the topic.

Some say that a patio or fire pit will command a higher ROI than an outdoor kitchen.

As Angela Blakenship of Best Neighborhood says, “Compared to other outdoor home improvement projects, kitchens are ranked as one of the best in terms of ROI. Its 50% ROI falls way below the 80% that a well-designed patio can earn. A fire pit retains an ROI of 67%.”

Carter Crowley of CB Home Solutions agrees. He claims that fire features will have a higher ROI than an outdoor kitchen “because outdoor fire features are just more in demand.”

On the other hand… Some of the appraisers say an outdoor kitchen offers the most value!

However, the reasoning varies.

“An outdoor kitchen adds aesthetic value and functionality to your space. Projects such as a pool or a sunroom mostly add aesthetic value, and the importance varies from one buyer to another, contributing to a lower ROI as compared to an outdoor kitchen”, Neil Dempsey of Four 19 Properties shares.

Eyal Pasternak of the Liberty House Buying Group agrees… But has a slightly different take.

“The ROI of an outdoor kitchen is the highest as compared to other projects. That’s because an outdoor kitchen is more practical and requires less maintenance than other projects, such as a swimming pool”, Pasternak states.

It would appear that an outdoor kitchen’s practicality and low-maintenance entertainment are a significant factor in their higher ROI.

And although there is some debate on what outdoor living project commands the highest ROI… Nearly everyone can agree that a pool will give you the lowest return.

As Andy Kolodgie of Sell My House Fast puts it, “An outdoor kitchen adds much more to your home’s resale value than a pool due to its functionality. So, think twice before investing in an outdoor living project. A pool’s return on investment is around 7%, but an outdoor kitchen is seven times more.”

Point is… An outdoor kitchen is an attractive investment for homebuyers across the board!

But even if you’re not thinking of selling right now… How does all of this information come together?

Putting it All Together

Alright. You’ve just processed a ton of information.

Calculations… Estimations… Percentages…

It’s a lot to digest.

And when the numbers start to align… We hope you’ll see just how valuable an outdoor kitchen project can be!

Even though the upfront cost can be significant… You’ll find that your investment is repaid quite quickly!

Not only is it more valuable than a standalone grill… You will save money on your other expenses!

Restaurant expenses and entertainment costs will plummet once your island is installed.

And should you ever decide to sell your home… That BBQ island will contribute to quite a nice payday.

Of course, we can’t forget the intangible value of an outdoor kitchen either.

Outdoor cooking is an event. And your home will become the neighborhood hangout, where everyone wants to gather!

Being the perfect backdrop for gatherings with loved ones… Your outdoor kitchen cabinets will be responsible for countless good memories.

And you simply can’t put a price on that!

Now, if you’re starting to think an outdoor kitchen is a worthy investment…

What are the next steps?

Beginning Your Outdoor Kitchen Journey

learning hub

The process of getting an outdoor kitchen is exciting!

But at times… It can be stressful.

So if you’re just dipping your toes in the water with this idea… The best thing you can do is research!

And lucky for you, it doesn’t have to be a complicated and confusing process!

There’s a single source for all the outdoor kitchen information you could ever hope for…

And it’s all in our dedicated Learning Hub.

The RTA Learning Hub is an ever-expanding library of blogs, videos, and other content about all things outdoor kitchens!

Once you’ve researched to your heart’s content… You might be curious about the best outdoor kitchen solution for your needs.

Allow us to provide a suggestion!

The Easiest Outdoor Kitchen Solution

l shape outdoor kitchen with pizza oven

While every homeowner’s needs are different… We can confidently say that there’s a solution that’s easier than the rest!

Yes, it’s RTA Outdoor Living.

Our ready-to-assemble outdoor kitchens can be ready to grill in as little as a few hours!

And believe it or not… We’re not over simplifying the process.

In fact, we can walk you through it in just a few sentences.

Most often… You’ll begin with creating a custom design using our free online design tool.

A Design Expert from our team will be assigned to your project. They’ll iron out all the details of your project… And be your primary contact throughout the entire process.

Then, blueprints are sent off to our manufacturing facility in Cambridge City, Indiana.

They’ll work diligently to create your outdoor kitchen panels and countertops… And everything (complete with premium Coyote appliances!) will be shipped straight to your doorstep.

All that’s left is for you to assemble.

With a couple helping hands… Hand carry the panels to your backyard. Align the sides and bolt them in place.

Place your countertop, slide in the appliances, hook up the utilities… And you’re ready to grill.

That’s really all there is to it!

So if you’re ready to get your DIY BBQ island… Try our design tool and give us a call.

We can’t wait to hear from you!

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