Restaurant Show Keeps on Truckin'

2010 NRA Show experiences increase in attendance, morale

Abbie Westra, Director, Editorial, CSP

CHICAGO -- After a handful of painful years during which both attendance and attendee morale declined due to a rough economy, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show saw a 6% uptick in registrants over last year. The NRA Show, held May 22-25 at McCormick Place in Chicago, tallied more than 58,000 attendees from 120 countries, up from 107 countries in 2009. Approximately 1,700 exhibitors showed off their wares on more than 480,000 square feet of show floor.

As attendees, notably more upbeat than in years past, milled about the show floor, a [image-nocss] number of trends surfaced from among the booths:
Food Trucks. In response to the growing popularity of mobile food options, a special "Food Truck Spot" on the show floor was dedicated to the equipment needed to launch or expand a food-truck business. Companies such as Mobi Munch are positioning themselves as a turnkey consultancy for starting a food-truck enterprise, from navigating local laws to creating a social media plan to outfitting and selling the truck itself. The fully loaded model on the show floor (with gas heat, fresh water and waste-water containment) goes for about $125,000, not including the POS system.
Health & Wellness. Nutrition always gets special play at the NRA Show; it's the specific categories within health and wellness that change from year to year. New to this year's show, gluten-free-food vendors received their own pavilion on the floor. Organized by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, the pavilion featured gluten-free breads, pizza, sweets, pasta and beerincluding Bard's, a sorghum beer that differs from other gluten-free beers in that the sorghum is malted, yielding a sweet, caramelized flavor.
Ethnic Opportunities. Ethnic cuisines on the brink of going mainstream can often be found in special pavilions at the NRA Show. This year, Korean and Malaysian cuisines both had a strong presence on the floor. Also new to this year's show was an education session on Halal meals. Presented by the Islamic Food & Nutrition Council of America, the session explored how to create and promote a Muslim-friendly operation for the nine million Muslim Americans looking for Halal meals.
Convenience & Quality. While many show-goers look for the weird and wacky (such as Twist Potatoes or Sauerkraut Balls), others are simply looking for ways to increase quality while saving time. For those attendees, Hormel Foods revealed its Always Tender Oven Roasted Pork fully cooked boneless, center-cut loins and tenderloins, which eliminates the worry of overcooking pork while ensuring a juicy, tender cut of meat.
Energy Efficiency. New to this year's show was a green business center run by the NRA's own Conserve Initiative. The Conserve Solutions Center featured products to reduce energy and water use, decrease waste and more. A highlight of the Center was the Thrust Eco-Delivery Electric Bikes, specially manufactured for food delivery. The battery lasts for 20 miles and goes up to 20 miles per hour. The bikes have 7.7 cubic feet of storage space, and magnetized branding provided by the company helps further market your company. The bikes are also ideal for a younger work force, as one doesn't need a driver's license to operate.

Abbie Westra, CSP/Winsight By Abbie Westra, Director, Editorial, CSP
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