NRA Show 2012 Menu: Clinton, Kids' Eats, Innovators

If you haven’t yet decided to attend the National Restaurant Association’s annual convention this year, a few programming tweaks might help propel you toward Chicago during the first week of May.

The National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show traditionally has occupied McCormick Place during just before Memorial Day. This year the event was displaced because of a conflict with the annual G8 Summit. After rescheduling to May 5-8, the association decided to pull out all the stops to boost attendance. Among the attractions this time around:

Former President Bill Clinton will provide the keynote speech during the show. He’s expected to share insights into his presidency and his current work with the William J. Clinton Foundation. Among the foundation’s projects: combating the rise in childhood obesity, which is done through the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, and helping individuals and families succeed and small businesses grow.

• A new Healthier Kids Fare pavilion will be join the handful of special-focus pavilions at this year’s show. A designated area of the exhibit floor will showcase healthful food and beverage products, including items with limited fats, sugars and sodium, and products that provide essential nutrients. The pavilion’s debut is an outgrowth of the association’s Kids LiveWell program, launched last summer, which encompasses restaurants providing children’s menu items meeting specific, strict nutrition criteria.

• This year also marks the debut of NRA’s Operator Innovations Awards, which will be announced during the show at an evening event on Saturday, May 5. The association is accepting nominations for the awards, which recognize “leaders who transform the industry with their extraordinary creativity and commitment.” Categories include technology applications, sustainability, menu development, food safety, and health & nutrition. Nominations (deadline: March 7, 2012) can come from manufacturers, dealers, distributors, media and other members of the restaurant and foodservice community. Commercial and noncommercial operators can also nominate themselves. Visit the award website for more information [3].

Restaurants Rock, which debuted at last year’s show, is back by popular demand. This year, three of Top Chef’s biggest stars—Richard Blais, Spike Mendelsohn and Fabio Viviani—will host the party on Sunday, May 6. It benefits the NRA Educational Foundation’s ProStart program. Live music and a mixology competition are part of the festivities.

• Also back this year: The Kitchen Innovations and Food & Beverage Product Innovations Awards; more than 100 educational sessions; celebrity book signings and cooking demonstrations; the World Culinary Showcase; and, of course, more than 1,800 exhibitors representing more than 900 product categories.

For more information about these events and other questions about the show schedule, registration and hotel accommodations, visit the show website [4]