Consummate bad boy Anthony Bourdain, Starbucks’ Howard Schultz and an expanded show floor are a few of the main attractions at this year’s National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show, which returns to its customary late-May time slot. This year’s NRA Show returns to Chicago’s McCormick Place Saturday, May 18, through Tuesday, May 21.
Chef/author/television personality Anthony Bourdain is on tap to host the third annual Restaurants Rock party on Sunday, May 19. He’ll weigh in as a judge of the Star of the Bar mixology competition finals. He’ll also visit the show on Monday, May 20 for a feature presentation and book signing.
Bourdain, most recently known for his TV series No Reservations, has carved out a niche as a professional advocate, social critic and pork enthusiast. The “chef-at-large” at New York’s famed Brasserie Les Halles, Bourdain wrote the bestselling Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, along with the bestselling graphic novel Get Jiro!, Les Halles Cookbook and others.
Another highlight of this year’s show is an appearance by the legendary Starbucks leader, Howard Schultz. The iconic company’s chairman, president and c.e.o. steered the growth of this coffee chain from four to more than 18,000 stores. His keynote presentation is set for Sunday, May 19.
Schultz is responsible for turning his company around through a renewed focus on coffee heritage, innovation, the customer experience and encouraging pride among employees. He’s expected to focus on the company’s transformation and how other organizations can balance profit and social conscience, among other things.
This year attendees will wear down their shoe soles a bit more with the addition of a new hall and a third show floor. Events such as the iSculpture ice carving challenge will take over the additional space.
In a nod to the important role of sustainability, this year’s NRA Show will fdature a hydroponic garden on the show floor adjacent to the Conserve Solutions Center. This specialty pavilion, one of about a dozen, focuses on green products and services.
Another new show floor attraction is the Alternative BiteStyle pavilion, showcasing products for customers with special dietary needs.
As always, the show’s 80+ educational sessions will tackle a number of timely issues, including:
• The implications of healthcare reform. One session, “Health Care: What You Need to Know Now,” will provide an overview and update on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, while two separate sessions will break down how the law will affect larger and smaller operators.
• The latest trends in nutrition and special dietary issues. They’ll be covered in “Matching Consumer Needs with Healthy Menu Strategies,” “What You Need to know about Serving Customers with Allergies” and “Nutrition Trends: How Can Your Restaurant Capitalize?”
• How the line between restaurants and groceries keeps blurring further, and how to capitalize on it. The program includes “Grocers and Restaurants: Learning from Each Other,” featuring Adam Saper, a partner in Mario Batali’s Eataly brand; and “The Convenience Store Competition—What You Can Learn from C-Store Retail Foodservice,” with ideas for tapping into this growing crossover segment.
If beverages are your game, you’ll want to check out the show-within-a-show, the International Beer, Wine & Spirits Event, which runs May 19-20 and requires a separate registration. Master sommeliers, renowned mixologists, certified cicerones and other experts will cover the latest trends, pairing suggestions, recipes and more.
On the lookout for creative food, beverage and equipment solutions? This year’s NRA Show will extend its tradition of spotlighting innovative products. The Kitchen Innovations Awards recognize the most promising and cutting-edge equipment advances. The winners represent innovations in energy efficiency and sustainability, online tools for tracking and monitoring, intelligent controls and layout versatility. FABI awards recognize products designed to satisfy consumer trends, including lifestyles such as gluten-free, allergen-free, low-sodium, vegetarian, vegan and raw diets. All of KI and FABI award winners will be on display in specially designated areas of the exhibit floor.
And what would an NRA Show be without the colorful presence of star chefs? This year’s lineup includes Rick Bayless, Anne Burrell, Homaro Cantu, Maneet Chauhan, Cat Cora, Mike Isabella, Marc Murphy, Marcus Samuelsson and Aaron Sanchez. They’ll be doing demos and signing books throughout the four-day show.
To register and learn more about the full program, visit the Association's website.