CHICAGO — The National Restaurant Association (NRA), representing more than 380,000 foodservice businesses, provided sourcing, networking and entertainment at its annual show, which ran from May 5 to 8, in Chicago and attracted more than 60,000 industry professionals from around the world.
Andrew Concannon, proprietor, Oakville, Ont.-based The Queens Head Pub, who attends the NRA Show every year, was wowed by a few products. “Flatbreads and new artisanal pizza doughs were very prevalent — they were everywhere — but products of particular interest to my business were the vac-packed guacamole and, of course, the crew from Bottoms Up Beer. That’s very innovative,” he said, referring to a draft-beer pouring system.
Cooking demonstrations by top chefs were held at the NRA’s World Culinary Showcase. A few of the big names at the showcase included Marcus Samuellson, Rick Tramonto, Todd English, Mike Isabella and Richard Blais.
Meanwhile, many education sessions were available, including one by Ross Resnick of the street food portal Roaming Hunger, who discussed his experience with the growing food-truck market. And, during a joint session, presented by LivingSocial and NRA, James Balda, chief marketing and communications officer of the NRA, pointed to a study and said the right marketing mix is vital to success in the restaurant industry. The paper also showed 84 per cent of restaurant operators consider restaurant-specific marketing emails to be effective in increasing revenue, while 78 per cent of consumers said an email from a restaurant would motivate them to visit a restaurant.
Elsewhere at the show, former president Bill Clinton addressed a packed house of restaurateurs and industry professionals and encouraged co-operation in confronting the nation’s challenges within the foodservice sector. While congratulating the NRA’s Kids Live Well program, Clinton said, “Thank you for all that’s being done through your initiatives to help our kids live a healthier future. What works is what you’sre doing to feed kids and help them eat healthier. What works is cooperation.”