NRA 2011: Product Trends and Innovations

Image: NRA Website

This year’s NRA show in Chicago just wrapped up. From food and seminars, to products and technology—the show really covers it all. To keep it simple, we’re just going to discuss some of the interesting trends we saw — along with links to the other information for you to catch anything you missed!

Latest Technology

Companies are finding innovative ways to use technology to make a customer’s experience with a product exceptional. Many times advanced technology can be something restaurant owners stay away from. We live in a fast-paced world and restaurants don’t have time to figure out how to fix a piece of equipment filled with technology.

However—companies are now not only making products that cut down on time, but are making them easier to manage as well. When searching for a product, don’t be so nervous or stray away thinking it’s “too advanced.” The people creating these products, from ice machines to digital signage, are making everything easier all the way around. Don’t think of getting the latest in technology as a fad, consider the money you will be saving later on down the road.

Digital Signage

Digital signage is on the rise and is a great way to go paperless. We came across several vendors advertising digital menu boards. This is an excellent way to advertise a menu, as many times pre-made signage isn’t easy to change and can be costly. With digital boards, changes can be made in an instant.

Another huge trend, which we have been covering, is the menu tablet. A major concern among restaurant-goers is a tablet can’t replace excellent customer service.

When speaking with a representative with Titbit about their interactive digital menu, she explained this technology actually enhances customer service. By using these menus, customers are in complete control of their order freeing up the wait staff’s time to focus on the actual service.


If you attend NRA, you can’t miss the food. They truly have it all. Among the many food vendors this year were foods for a particular lifestyle such as gluten-free and vegan/vegetarian. Whether it’s a lifestyle choice or an allergy, customers with particular eating habits are no longer few and far between. It’s best to be prepared.

Going Green

Image: Conserve Website

Companies are finding ways to go green and many have at least one product that is eco-friendly. We came across many green products from fryers to disposableware. If you haven’t taken too much time on making your restaurant more eco-friendly, it’s becoming very easy to find a green model of a product.

As we’ve been learning about the importance of saving the environment, we released this whitepaper last month on making a restaurant economically friendly which will help if you’re not sure where to begin.

More Information

Here are a few links to other interesting aspects of the show. If you attended this year’s NRA show, we hope you share with us what stood out to you.

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