The National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show and companion Wine, Spirits and Beer Event is wowing attendees, showcasing innovations such as the new and improved Coca Cola Freestyle touch-screen pop machine, the Self-Service Yogurt Wall from Stoelting Foodservice Equipment and a flash mob dance.
The Coca Cola Freestyle system, which launched in 2009, with 100 different carbonated drinks, now dispenses 125 drinks in honour of the company’s 125th anniversary. It’s available in customer self-serve dispensers and behind-the-counter “crew-serve” versions. What’s more, radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips imbedded in beverage cups trigger the Coca Cola Freestyle machine to dispense and won’st work without the chip, which can be set to limit the number of refills. ValidFill LLC of Sarasota, Fla., developed the RFID-control technology and sister company Whirley DrinkWorks makes the plastic cups and other food and beverage containers. The latest announcement expands the flexibility of Coca Cola Freestyle with cartridges that can hold syrup for 3,300 ounces of drink.
Online innovation is also big at the show where there is a flood of social media presence, with new exhibitors offering special features exclusive to show attendees, including Google, Facebook, Groupon, Living Social, Travelzoo and Yelp. Show events highlighted Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Floored, and the NRA created a new online social media tool called eventSocial. The app provides access to most social networks or email accounts such as Gmail, Yahoo! Mail or Microsoft Office Outlook.
Keeping with the social media trend, this year saw the introduction of NRA Show Daily Deals. Each day new products and services are highlighted online and through social media. The program adds a face-to-face component to business-to-business online group couponing, while also allowing buyer and seller to fulfill orders and discuss future opportunities for engagement, according to Mary Pat Heftman, NRA’s executive vice-president.
Aside from the business, the show has also been fun. Case in point, the NRA Show 2011 Flash Mob Dance, was scheduled to take place this morning, Feb. 24, in McCormick Place’s Grand Concourse. Led by Gale Gand, executive pastry chef and bestselling author, the dance was set to Pink’s “Raise Your Glass” and choreographed by Austin Lim.
Photo courtesy of restaurantdotorg.