Student housing developers would be well-served to pause and ask themselves whether their college living spaces meet the needs and expectations of Generation Z. The majority of students attending college now belong to Gen Z and covet significantly different values about living spaces than previous populations.
Growing up in the technology age, those born in 1997 and after prefer live-work balance and pragmatic amenities that help maximize living space utilization. Cutting-edge student housing projects are integrating conveniences that attract college renters willing to pay a premium. One of the ways intelligent student apartment developers are improving their return on investment is by enhancing outdoor living spaces that reflect the comforts of home. Complexes that strategically improve each common area with a patio heater and commercial BBQ grill are more likely to attract value-driven Gen Z college renters.
Challenge of Attracting Gen Z to Student Housing Communities
There was a time when multi-family residential property developers shied away from spending money on certain amenities. An in-ground pool typically increased insurance liability, as did saunas, and fitness centers, among others. But the shifting values of renters persuaded multi-family community owners to invest in these items because the added cost could be rolled into leases. Many also discovered the quality of life enhancements attracted college-educated professionals with high incomes willing to pay for extras.
Today, pools and gyms are routine expectations, and student residencies must meet a higher standard of living. Traditional college-age students are 18-22 years old and fall squarely into the Gen Z demographic. And the seemingly little extras make a substantial difference where they reside. Adding a stainless steel BBQ grill to a common area or patio evolves sterile dorm room life into an at-home experience.
The same holds true for investing in a state-of-the-art patio heater. The ability to relax with a morning beverage, study in the fresh air, or dine outdoors with friends amplifies the peaceful enjoyment. Overcoming the challenge of attracting undergraduate and graduate students willing to pay top dollar calls for raising the bar and including a well-placed propane or natural gas commercial BBQ and infrared patio heater.
Winning Commercial BBQ & Patio Heater Strategies
Large-scale developers are doubling down on student housing projects largely because they remain highly profitable. For example, a 154-bed student facility near Columbia University recently changed hands to the tune of $84 million. One might shrug that number off to New York prices were it not for two things. That figure averages about $550,000 per bed, and a national trend reflects soaring values for student housing with niche amenities. Multi-family property owners catering to college students can also cash in by installing a patio heater or stainless steel BBQ grill in the following ways.
- Fixed Patio Heaters: Outdoor spaces that involve roofs can leverage a permanently installed propane, natural gas, or electric patio heater. Fixed heaters can be fueled by propane, natural gas, or electricity, and can be installed overhead, on a wall, or on a pole in the floor.
- Mushroom Patio Heaters: These iconic models are routinely used by restaurants and homeowners. A thick base typically houses a portable propane tank, and a circular head at the top emits infrared rays that warm objects. In student housing settings, an otherwise portable patio heater can be safely secured in place.
- Commercial BBQ Grills: A stainless steel BBQ grill is an absolute game-changer in terms of the college experience. Many Gen Z students stick to monthly budgets that restrict their ability to dine at restaurant prices. Installing a patio barbecue allows people generally under 25 years old to enjoy the locked-in flavor created by grilling. Rather than rely on the cafeteria food or cheap Ramen noodles, students have the opportunity to grill burgers, chicken wings, kabobs, and vegetarian foods with enhanced flavor.
Large student housing developers and multi-family dwelling owners interested in attracting Gen Z renters would be well served to steer clear of certain products. Poorly designed grills and heaters from overseas tend to waste fuel and lack the safety controls of top-tier models. It’s crucial to invest in cast aluminum or a stainless steel BBQ and patio heater with Made in USA quality. Here is a direct quote from a leading student housing developer:
Why I specify your product for our student housing, besides your durability, it has a timer built in for easy of locating for start up and shut off.
- Tom Montgomery RA
Senior PreConstruction Manager
Best Commercial BBQ Products for Gen Z Renting
It’s important for student housing and multi-family dwelling owners to select industry-leading outdoor gas grills and patio heaters. Commercial models are designed for extensive use and last a lifetime. That being said, there is a PGS Grill line particularly well suited for student rental units — the T-Series.
The PGS T-Series barbecue grill line can be powered by natural gas or liquid propane. This provides property owners with the flexibility to tap into existing natural gas lines or shift the cost of fuel tank refills to renters. Portable propane tanks can be refilled or swapped out at convenient locations.
The T-Series also tends to take up only modest patio space. A PGS T30 model delivers 30,000 BTUs on a slim pedestal mounting system. The T40 products offer 40,000 BTUs, can be pedestal mounted, and provides an expansive 434 square inches of grilling surface. These primarily hard cast aluminum models enjoy Made in USA quality and come with stainless steel internal components. Other proven benefits include the following.
- 60-Minute Shutoff Timers
- Infrared Rotisserie Adaptable
- Grill Lift-Assist Handle Adaptable
- Electronic Ignition System
- Stainless Steel Side Shelf
Property owners who believe maximum effectiveness comes from creating extensive outdoor kitchens typically invest in a stainless steel BBQ such as the S27T, S36T, or S48T. Larger models offer 540 to 960 square inches of direct cooking area. These grills are conducive to get-togethers and full-course outdoor meal preparations in common areas.
Best Commercial Patio Heaters for Gen Z Renting
The AEI Corp outdoor patio brands have been widely adopted by commercial businesses, particularly in the service industry. Restaurant owners, resorts, and operations that cater to leisure enjoyment utilize infrared heaters to extend daily and season use of patios, decks, and pool areas. These lines of radiant heaters can run on propane, natural gas, or electricity, making sure you can have the perfect heating system for your unique patio. Depending on goals and the physical layout, the following types have proven effective.
- Patio Comfort: This line of outdoor patio heaters employs the classic mushroom head design widely used today. The circular head disperses infrared radiant heat, warming people in the throw radius. They can be secured in place to leverage natural gas or remain portable with a liquid propane tank housed in the base. Due to inherent flexibility, Patio Comfort heaters rank among the most popular choices for multi-family housing.
- Sunglo: In 1967 AEI started the first line of mushroom heaters and Sunglo has been an industry leader ever since then. Powered by natural gas or liquid propane these heaters can be permanently installed on the floor or can be portable if it runs on propane. Sunglo also offers mushroom heaters suspended overhead, so you can enjoy the look of a mushroom heater without its pole taking up floor space.
- Sunpak: This line of commercial heater also provides fuel flexibility. Powered by natural gas or liquid propane, Sunpak models generate between 25,000 and 34,000 BTU comfort. Property owners have a certified technician install either black matte or stainless steel-faced units to secure overhangs. Radiant heat coverage ranges from 100 square feet to 144 square feet, depending on the model. Wall mounting remains another option for property owners and managers.
- Infratech: When access to natural gas or liquid propane is impractical, student residences may be best served to leverage existing electricity. The Infratech infrared heaters require only a designated electrical line to cost-effectively extend daily and seasonal usage. Infratech heaters are considered more than 90 percent energy-efficient, and a go-to option for Gen Z housing.
Some argue that student housing projects have gone “high end.” Given many involve expansive outdoor patios, lush gardens, and even rooftop gathering spaces, it’s difficult to say the current trends are anything else. But the same was once true of condominiums that added pools and fitness centers that are now considered standard amenities.
The fact an increased number of developers are investing in niche leisure extras such as outdoor BBQ grills and patio heaters creates an industry shift. Those who fail to offer a commercial BBQ or outdoor patio heater to improve the student housing experience will likely be categorized as “low-end” rental properties. It’s in every property owner's best interest to avoid the reduced rents that come with such a designation.
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