Big splash in Chicago

The NRA Show 2014 in Chicago is set to be bigger and better than ever before. Michael Jones looks forward to a four-day spectacular in the Second City

As if The NRA Show wasn’t a grand enough event in its own right, the addition of NBA legend and acclaimed businessman Earvin “Magic” Johnson as a keynote speaker makes it just that extra bit special. Johnson, who will talk about his 30-year journey in becoming the ‘number-one brand in urban America’, will address attendees on Sunday 18 May, the day after the event opens.

The numbers, as ever, are impressive (see NRA Show 2014 in numbers below). The show, staged in Chicago’s McCormick Place will this year see more than 1,800 suppliers and tens of thousands of buyers coming together over the course of four days. New products, trends and ideas will be showcased across three halls, while the show floor will feature more then 2,000 supplier brands displaying more than 900 product categories.

There will also be culinary demonstrations from some of the biggest chefs in the business, free consultation opportunities and speciality areas dedicated to pertinent product sections.

Organisers see the show as a key event for commercial operators (chains, multi-unit establishments, independents and franchises), non-commercial operators (K-12, university, healthcare, B&I and contract feeders), culinary professionals (chefs of all levels, dieticians, nutritionists, R&D), dealers and distributors (equipment, supplies, food and beverage dealers and distributors) and retailers (grocery stores, speciality food shops and convenience stores).

For top chefs like Paul Kahan, the show, “brings in a ton of chefs and restaurant people from around the country and it’s great for business obviously, but also great exposure for our city. Chicago is an incredible food community that continues to grow and innovate.”

The energy and spectacle of celebrity chefs live on stage, working their culinary magic and sharing their tips, recipes and techniques is one of the highlights of the event. Participating chefs this year include Rick Bayless, Maxime Bilet, David Burke, Maneet Chauhan, Graham Elliot, Robert Irvine, Jehangir Mehta, Art Smith, Ming Tsai, Andrew Zimmern, Marc Forgione and Claire Robinson.

Now in its 10th year, the show’s Kitchen Innovations Awards programme recognises cutting-edge advancements in increased energy efficiency and waste reduction in the foodservice industry. The awards honour equipment and technology that specifically improves the back of the house operations and benefits restaurant operators. “2014 marks an important milestone for the KI Awards,” said Sam Facchini, co-founder and co-owner of Metro Pizza and 2014 NRA Show Convention Chair. “In addition to proudly celebrating our 10-year anniversary of the awards, this year’s honorees demonstrate the continued tradition of the KI Awards in celebrating innovative companies making a measureable impact on the day-to-day operations of the foodservice industry.”

The 2014 KI Award recipients reflect the trends and topics most important to foodservice operators today. The 24 selected innovations offer solutions for operators addressing waste reduction and energy conservation, enhanced sanitation, as well as increased efficiency with equipment that showcases hybrid cooking techniques and reduced cooking times.

Winners already announced include Alto Shaam for the CT PROformance Combitherm Oven, Champion Industries for the Dry Assist, Environmental Products & Services Ltd (EPAS) for GreaseShield ECO 1850 PreFilter Low Level, Henny Penny Corporation, Velocity Series™ Pressure Fryer, Manitowoc Beverage, Multiplex Manual Fill Blend-in-Cup System (BIC-MF), Rational USA for the Rational VarioSmoker, The Vollrath Company for the Downdraft Vent Module, Vulcan/ITW FEG for the PowerFry5™ with FivePass™ Heat Transfer and Wilbur Curtis Company for the Wireless Freshness Monitoring System (FMS). A full list of the winners can be found at

Michael Jones


The NRA Show 2014 in numbers

  • Attendees include representatives from 98% of the top 50 US chains, 94% of the top 100 chains and 82% of the top 200 chains
  • 33% of attendees are new each year
  • The show floor will have 2,000+ established and emerging supplier brands showcasing more than 900 product categories,
  • Post-show, attendees plan to spend $388,500 on average with exhibitors they connected with on the floor, according to research from the National Restaurant Association
  • The social media audience for the show boasts 5,710 Twitter followers, 7,285 “Likes” on Facebook, 540+ LinkedIn Group members, 140,000+ YouTube views and 30,000 blog page views per month


FCSI at the show

Wade Koehler, executive director of FCSI The Americas Division, gives us his take on the event

What does the NRA Show represent to you? Why is it still so relevant?
The NRA Show represents a full picture of the foodservice industry showcasing new trends covering everything from food and drink to equipment. It also still serves as a central networking event for everyone in the great host city of Chicago.

What does the show bring to Chicago when it comes around?
I think the show brings a great industry presence to the city of Chicago. It allows the city to show of its culinary expertise along with its incredible selection of restaurants.

What kind of presence will FCSI have at the event this year?
FCSI will be celebrating its 10th year partnering with the NRA Show to host the Ask the Design Experts booth. We offer free 30-minute consultations with show attendees. It offers operators a chance to receive professional advice from operations to equipment selection from the best consultants in the world.

How will you be supporting members throughout the show?
We encourage all of our members to stop by our booth to say hello to the FCSI The Americas staff. The FCSI TA Midwest Chapter will once again host its Sunday evening networking reception at the Renaissance Hotel from 5pm-7pm. In addition, some of our members participate in the Kitchen Innovations showcase on the show floor. Come over and see us on booth #6000!


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