National Restaurant Association Show Recap

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One of the foodservice and hospitality industry’s largest events, the National Restaurant Association Show, recently wrapped up after a busy four days (May 5-8) at McCormick Place in Chicago, Ill.

McCormick Place is the perfect venue for an event as large as the NRA Show, with 2.6 million square foot exhibit halls and ceilings up to 50 feet high.  The show uses every inch of space they reserve, with many booths tightly squeezed in together.  Then there are the thousands of people bumping into each other as they go from booth to booth to see the latest and greatest products and taste different foods and beverages.

This year the event took up two of McCormick Place’s massive halls and was comprised of around 1,856 exhibitors of the foodservice and hospitality industry.

Attendees and Exhibitors

What’s great about the NRA Show is anyone from a company can attend and get a meaningful experience as it provides several learning and networking opportunities–whether it’s a company’s buyer or member of a marketing department.  As you walk through the event and glance at different badges, you truly see the several different types of people that come to visit the show.

While attendees gain product knowledge and learn about other companies, exhibitors get a just as meaningful experience.

NRA said exhibitors are able to “connect with a massive group of high-level decision-makers and influencers from all across the foodservice and hospitality industry.”

As a bonus, NRA said after the show, those who attended plan to spend an average of $429,600 with exhibitors they connected with.

Schedule and Events

This year’s show had a jam packed schedule with the show floor being open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (except only open until 3 p.m. on the last day) and various events, attractions, educational sessions and demonstrations.

The show also held the International Wine, Spirits and Beer Event on May 6-7.

On Sunday May 6, the show’s keynote speaker was President Bill Clinton, founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation.  According to a Chicago Sun-Times article, a large portion of his one-hour speech pertained to childhood obesity.  He also praised the NRA for their commitment to children’s health initiatives.  (Read the article for more information).

This year was the first year for the Inaugural Operator Innovations Awards, “a program for commercial and non-commercial operators who transform the industry with their extraordinary creativity and commitment.” Winners were announced at the Destination: Celebration event on May 5.  (Check out the nominees and the winners).

Social Media

As there are thousands in attendance or interested in the show, social media helps to keep everyone involved, whether they are attending or not.

Social media was heavily used and enabled everyone to stay connected via NRA’s Facebook, Twitter (also using #NRA2012), LinkedIn, YouTube and Flickr accounts.  People were also able to subscribe to the show press room’s RSS feed.

Those who weren’t able to attend or want to re-live certain events can benefit from all of NRA’s different social media platforms for videos, pictures and more.

Central’s Experience

Central has had a presence at the NRA Show since 1983, which is two years after we opened. Product Consultant Steve White has been attending the show on and off since 1988—and to the left is a photo of all his different badges from over the years.

It was Central Product Consultant Karin Romani’s first year attending the show and said it was a really great learning experience.

“I ate my way through the show,” she said, as everyone at the show does. “But I learned about the new NSF-2012 rules going into effect in November (that will affect slicer manufacturers for one thing).  And I got to see a few new models of fryers and ranges at the American Range booth—fryers with a built in filter that filters continually while frying.  (I also saw) a commercial range that has a pilot light like a residential range that turns off between uses rather than staying on continually like most commercial ones.”

Romani added she saw a new line of flash freezers that she had been looking into for a customer.

“It was really nice to be able to see so many things in one place,” she said.

That essentially is the best way to describe the show—everything in one space with tons of innovative products.

Next year’s event will be at McCormick Place again, from May 18-21.

If you attended the NRA Show, please let us know what you thought! What were some of the favorite products you saw or food items you tried?

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4 thoughts on “National Restaurant Association Show Recap

  1. We attended the show on Monday and loved seeing all the innovative products. There were so many great ideas! One that stood out was the touchless flatware. (Flatware that slightly bends up so the part of a fork/spoon you eat with never touches the table). There were a ton of large products that were really cool as well. Many restaurant equipment companies are finding ways to make things easier and more efficient such as quick one-touch menu option cooking or faster cook times.

    Then need I mention the food!? There were so many things I tried such as croissants, pizza, cheese, mini-sandwiches, vegan and gluten-free options, smoothies, etc.

  2. avatarRick Arenstein on said:

    With the 1000′s of booths, the one item that really stood out and made a big impression was the table jack company (www.tablejacks.com for info and video). the Kit comes with 3 feet for a table base, and the 4th has a small lever that when pressed, levels the table on any surface, without the use of wobble wedges, match books, napikns etc. This is definitely an item we could sell a lot of, solving the frustrations of every restaurant owner and customers alike.

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