In our ever-changing foodservice landscape, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) team aims to use its annual tradeshow as a platform to help restaurant operators discover, learn, connect, inspire and gain the tools needed to innovate and thrive.
The NRA Show will be held May 20 to 23 at the McCormick Place in Chicago. “Our focus is always on what’s new and what’s next,” says Mary Pat Heftman, executive vice-president, Convention & Strategic Alliances at NRA. “It really is about looking forward — presenting trends, presenting solutions [and education] that match those trends.”
Keeping in line with this focus, the show’s education sessions will highlight emerging trends, as well as mitigating major industry pain points.
“For the last six months, the two biggest pain points for operators have been around training and retention of talent…[and] the cost of labour,” Heftman adds. “So you’ll see a lot on that in our education programming this year.”
On May 21, NRA president and CEO Dawn Sweeney will host the show’s keynote panel — Signature ’17 — focusing on the challenges posed by today’s empowered consumer. As Heftman explains, this is a trend that will be reflected throughout the show, along with gluten-free products, healthier soda alternatives, meat alternatives and exciting and exotic seasonings and sauces. “Kosher, vegan and non-GMO [also] continue to pick up speed,” she adds.
The show will once again host a pavilion dedicated to the year’s Kitchen Innovation Award recipients. These award-winning products reflect the trends and topics most important to foodservice operators today. This year’s winners include Alto-Shaam’s Vector Multi-Cook Oven — a ventless oven offering up to four independently controlled cooking chambers; the Blendtec Nitro Blending System, which allows users to blend a drink in the same disposable cup it’s served in; and Panasonic’s new Met-ALL Induction System, which automatically adjusts its frequency to work with any kind of cooking pan.
Other specialty areas that will be featured at the NRA Show include the Tech Pavilion, Startup Alley, Alternative BiteStyle — an area highlighting products and ingredients for alternative diets — and the Foodamental Studio, which will host a variety of hands-on workshops.
The Bellavita Italian Pavilion will also be returning to the show for its second year. “[This] is the largest, made-in-Italy food and wine expo this side of the Atlantic,” explains Heftman. “We will have 60 Italian artisan producers at the NRA show.”