Shrewd programming moves and the ability to attract some 2,000 exhibitors have helped ensure that the upcoming National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show retains its status as the premier U.S. event for the foodservice industry. The May 16-19 convention is expected once again to draws tens of thousands of attendees hailing from all segments of the industry to Chicago. And if they’re smart, they’ve packed comfy shoes: The association reckons it would take a full two days to navigate the McCormick Place aisles of exhibit properly.
While much at this year’s show will seem familiar to veteran attendees, NRA has made some tweaks to the layout and regular features of the program.
Focus on the future: This year's show will bring the addition of an experimental "Start-up Alley," an opportunity for foodservice-related companies to introduce their products to leaders in the industry and potentially launch their products from the show floor. The NRA Show will also have its first 3-D printing area, where attendees can see firsthand the potential for this exciting technology.
Fresh content: The dozens of educational sessions will explore a variety of on-trend topics, including how cannabis is affecting restaurants (“Marijuana on the Menu”), lessons from fast-casual leaders (“Lessons From Leaders 3.0: How Fast Casual Inspires and Innovates”) and daily exploration of into the Millennial segment, including “Authentic Flavors for the Modern Day Consumer” and “Understand & Engage Millennials Using Social.”
Top chefs, latest trends: This year's World Culinary Showcase welcomes back traditional favorites such as Rick Bayless and Maneet Chauhan, in addition to newcomers Elizabeth Falkner, Jeff Mauro, Barton Seaver and more. And the Foodamental Studio, a popular introduction last year, will touch on topics such as Modern German, Instagram Cram, Java as a Rub and more.
A show bar none: The alcoholic beverage show within a show happens Sunday and Monday (known as the International Wine, Spirits & Beer Event) and has a new name that goes down smoothly: BAR (Beverage Alcohol for Restaurants) at the NRA Show. The affiliated Restaurants Rock and Star of the Bar events will be hosted by famed chef and TV personality Geoffrey Zakarian. Finalists representing six markets—Atlanta, Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco, Las Vegas and NYC—will compete for the Star of the Bar title on Sunday night. (Separate registration required.)
Art of the deal: Monday marks the return of the day-long Restaurant Finance Summit, which debuted at the 2014 NRA Show. The conference connects top foodservice financial executives with Wall Street analysts, investment groups and lenders and tax/accounting experts. This year’s keynote speaker is Russ Bendel, c.e.o. of The Habit Burger Grill, fresh from a successful IPO. (Separate registration required.)
In typical fashion, the four days of the show are packed with events, exhibits and learning opportunities tailored to every aspect of foodservice ownership and operation:
• The Tech Pavilion is home to technology exhibitors producing everything from mobile apps to digital signage, POS and other operations tools. It’s also the location for sessions covering big data, cloud solutions and other technology trends.
• The Conserve Solutions Center and the Organic & Natural Pavilion can provide guidance and ideas to tackle two increasingly important consumer demands: for “cleaner” foods and more sustainable business practices.
• Operators shopping for new equipment or scoping out additions to their menus can check out cutting-edge solutions from winners of this year’s Kitchen Innovations and FABI awards. Equipment will be displayed in the Kitchen Innovations Pavilion, while FABI winners are showcased throughout the show floor.
This year’s show chair, John Metz (executive chef and c.e.o. of Marlow’s Tavern, Aqua Blue and Sterling Spoon Culinary Management), sums up the impact of the total NRA Show experience well.
“The combination of inspiration gained from renowned chefs, insights from the over 70+ education sessions, discoveries on the show floor and countless interactions with industry peers makes the NRA Show 2015 a not-to-miss destination for any foodservice operator.”