Open for Business: Latest Foodservice Must-Haves


The annual CRFA Show presents the latest foodservice must-haves for 2012.

With spring around the corner, a sense of renewal is in the air as the foodservice and hospitality industry gears up to showcase the latest offerings of food and beverages, technology, smallwares and services at the 66th annual Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA) Show.

From March 4 to 6, the Direct Energy Centre at the Exhibition Place, Toronto, will house 1,200 booths, an estimated 14,000 attendees (up from 13,000 in 2011), business seminars and chef demos. “It’s getting better and better,” says Garth Whyte, president and CEO of the CRFA. “We’ve got a third more seminars, more exhibitors, a bigger chef competition and just really more of everything,” he raves. 

Aside from the tradeshow booths — which will showcase a range of suppliers, from Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada to OpenTable, Inc. and the LCBO — menu innovation will be the order of the day at The i.Menu Expo, which is set to debut at the show this year. Ten to 15 suppliers will showcase technological innovations such as iPads and Android tablet apps as well as the newest accessories and hardware, including table touch-screen menus.

Meanwhile, the CRFA Show hosts a number of partners in 2012, such as the Ontario Accommod-ation Association, which will hold its first-annual SAXibition (Super Accommodation Exhibition) tradeshow at the event. Labelled by organizers as a “show within a show,” the SAXibition caters to family owned small to medium-sized inns and lodges across Ontario that offer foodservice.

And, in a bid to foster the next generation of chefs, the CRFA will premiere its Discovered Culinary Competition, shining the spotlight on sous-chefs and line cooks from across Canada. Twelve qualifying rounds lead up to the final throwdown March 6, when four semi-finalists will compete to spend a week working in a Michelin-star restaurant in Spain. “It’s really grassroots,” explains Edwin Cabural, expositions director, of the goal to discover the next biggest chef. “Who knows? Five years down the road, 10 years, [the next biggest chef] might have competed at the competition; it gives them exposure.”

Speaking of chefs, David Adjey of the Food Network’s The Opener will be taking on a new role this year. “He’s going to host and be a roving ambassador … walking throughout the show all three days talking to visitors,” Whyte explains. The toque will offer his take on the show, too. “He’s going to put together his top 10 things you can’t miss,” adds Cabural.

In addition to the range of booths and events, the show will provide further networking opportunities at a panel breakfast March 6 at the Liberty Grand where industry members can meet the CRFA’s incoming Board of Directors.

Prior to that, the annual reception at the Liberty Grand on March 5, will honour the Discovered Culinary Competition winners and serve as the site for the Longevity Awards, which recognize companies that have participated in the tradeshow for more than 50 years. “It’s a show that’s rich in history,” says Cabural. “It’s been going on since the 1940s, and we want to highlight that to the industry.”

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