NRA Show Aims To Connect Operators on a Host of Industry Issues


With the foodservice landscape quickly evolving, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) team has prepared another education-packed, star-studded NRA Show to shine the spotlight on the issues that matter most to restaurant operators.

The annual tradeshow will be held May 21 to 24 at the McCormick Place in Chicago. “The theme this year is called ‘This is My Show.’ The idea behind the campaign is that even though people come from different industry segments, the NRA show is where they can gather as a community and learn from different segments of the business,” explains Leana Salamah, senior director, Convention Marketing, Communications & Programming at NRA.

On May 23, leaders will dive deep into the challenges of offering foodservice in retail spaces with the brand-new Foodservice at Retail Conference — an immersive event aimed at addressing recruiting, marketing and health-and-wellness trends in the growing segment. In response to a shift in consumer preferences toward health-conscious and sustainable foods, the show features seminars on “eco-protein” trends such as hormone- and antibiotic-free chicken and grass-fed beef. “There is also renewed interest around food safety and sanitation this year,” Salamah adds.

Show organizers are offering start-up companies a reduced rate to entice them to exhibit in the Startup Alley pavilion. Introduced in 2015, Startup Alley showcases innovative new companies. “We have also made a significant investment in the beverage-alcohol space,” adds Salamah. The NRA team has tapped Jon Taffer of TV show Bar Rescue and founder of Taffer Dynamics to emcee its Star of the Bar Competition, offer advice to bar and restaurant operators on the showroom floor and lead a crowd-sourced education session with English celebrity chef Robert Irvine about what it takes to pull an operation back from the brink of failure.
In the World Culinary Showcase, attendees will be treated to live culinary demos by chefs such as Lorena Garcia, Ming Tsai and Rick Bayless. Plus, a new made-in-Italy food and wine expo called Bellavita will dominate 15,000-sq.-ft. of the showroom floor and be home to producers, top chefs and sommeliers from Italy.

Meanwhile, a special pavilion dedicated to Kitchen Innovation Award-winners will highlight equipment that delivers cutting-edge food safety, water savings, smart technology and lower labour costs. This year’s winners include Manitowoc Foodservice’s Multiplex N2Fusion Beverage System — a nitrogenized coffee system; Rational’s KitchenManagement System, which lets operators manage and control up to 30 Rational combi ovens from a central computer; and The Vollrath Company’s Stoelting AutoVend System, which dispenses up to two flavours and four toppings of frozen soft-serve in multiple sizes.

Instead of a key-note presentation, the show will host a panel discussion between its CEO Dawn Sweeney and three restaurant innovators on May 22. “It’s going to be more dynamic than a traditional panel session,” says Salamah. “We want to turn that on its head and change it into a dialogue between folks in the industry who are embracing and causing change.”

Volume 49, Number 2

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