The National Restaurant Association Show just concluded in Chicago. It’s the biggest of big in terms of food service trade shows. In fact, a lot of people just call it “the show.”
They describe it as “discover exciting new products, interact with innovative new equipment, create business connections with key suppliers, access expert-led education sessions on today’s biggest topics, and make invaluable peer-to-peer networking connections.” Every facet of the business is represented at the National Restaurant Association show. If you are looking for rice cookers, cleaning services, technology, dairy free products, aprons, dish ware, coffee, robots …. You name it, it can be found at “the show.”
There isn’t as much content at this National Restaurant Association show as some of the other shows and the focus is really on the trade show and vendor booths.
My feedback and insights on this show will be both “state of the industry” and also about observations on exhibiting.
1. MATCH AND MEET GUEST EXPECTATIONS
We can all agree, tech is the Way Forward for Restaurant Success. There’s one thing for sure coming out of the NRA show: everyone is re-evaluating how to manage guest expectations – how to match them and meet them.
I had the opportunity to interview GoTab CEO Tim McLaughlin & InKind CEO Johann Moonesinghe at the show about how guest expectations have changed since the pandemic; how that impacts restaurants and how operators’ response is impacting their guests.
These two incredible leaders have some incredible ideas that you won’t want to miss. Catch the replay. WATCH: “How To Meet New Guest Expectations”
2. GO BIG OR GO HOME
With so many booths and exhibitors it was hard to stand out from the pack. Here’s a couple of key ideas on how your booth can get more visitors.
- Go high. One way to stand out from the pack was to have a really tall booth. It’s definitely more expensive to hang something from the ceiling or to have a two floor booth, so if you want to save money do what Devour did…just have. Really tall sign!
- Have food and or drinks. Any booth that was handing out food or beverage had more visitors. I didn’t see a single booth with water through and you know who was thirsty, EVERYONE.
- Do something. Ovation had a basketball court. BYOD had a golf simulator. Lunchbox was giving out free tattoos. What does this have to do with tech? Nothing. But people stopped at their booths and talked to reps.
3. DEEP > WIDE
There is a lot of tech out there. A lot. The ones that operators love create efficiencies and are easy to use. In a case where two pieces of tech do the same thing, the one that is better wins. Be better. Go deep. Make it work incredibly well. It’s better to be really good at doing one thing then kind of do a couple things ok.
4. IT’S NOT ABOUT THE PRODUCTS
Everyone thinks the National Restaurant Association show is about the products, and yes, I like Coke more than I like Pepsi, but there is no feature, no benefit, no aspect of any product available that is more important than the people. People don’t buy from companies, they buy from people.
So no matter what you are selling or how easy it is to use, and that includes napkins, ketchup, software or a robot that makes french fries, it is the service and the relationship that earns and keeps customers.
Have a good product but back it with amazing people.
5. DON’T TRAVEL WITH SALT
…unless you’re flying out of Philadelphia.
I got stopped at security in both EWR and ORD because I had epsom salt in my bag. They have to run a chemical test on it to allow you to carry it on board. Huge delay at security. I didn’t get stopped out of Philly though!
If you were at the National Restaurant Association Show, what did you take away?
Want to know what it’s like to eat at the biggest trade show in the restaurant business?
Thanks for reading to the bottom. You are my favorite and that’s why I take the time to write and share this kind of info… I’m here to help you. Connect with me on Instagram or LinkedIn if you have any questions!
@themunchmafia What it looks like to eat with me at the biggest tradeshow in the food service business, The National Restaurant Association show in Chicago. #munchmafia #restaurantbusiness #foodietikok #frenchfries🍟 #icee #cheesesteak #beefpatties #hotdog🌭 ♬ Me Porto Bonito – Bad Bunny & Chencho Corleone