Every NRA Show is a big deal, but the 2016 event looks to be bigger, better and more relevant than ever before, report Michael Jones

Since its foundation in 1919, the National Restaurant Association has become the leading business association for the US restaurant industry, which is comprised of 1 million foodservice outlets and represents a workforce of over 14 million employees. The Association operates the industry’s largest trade event, The National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show, or ‘NRA Show’ for short.

Each NRA Show is a big event, but this year’s promises to be even bigger and better than before. Billed as ‘the largest annual gathering of restaurant, foodservice, and lodging professionals in the world’ the 2016 show is predicted to attract 66,000+ attendees and visitors from all 50 states and 100+ countries.

Showcasing the latest products, ideas, opportunities and challenges affecting the sector, NRA Show 2016 will take place 21-24 May at McCormick Place in Chicago while the 2016 BAR at NRA Show Event, held in conjunction with NRA Show, will take place 22-23 May.

“NRA is an iconic show in the foodservice industry in the Americas region. It is the show to go for several market segments within the foodservice industry, not only in the US, but for a lot of the clients in the whole American continent,” says William Taunton FCSI, president, FCSI Worldwide.

“If, as foodservice consultants, you want to meet with potential clients, NRA is the best show. Restaurateurs and hoteliers from the whole world go to Chicago for NRA, so it is one nobody should skip. I would say Chicago is one of my favorite cities in the world, maybe because NRA was the first show I visited with my Dad on one of his business trips when I was young,” says Taunton.

“The show is still a major player in the foodservice industry and has grown an international audience over the past few years. It’s a show where we get to showcase our brand and see some of our FCSI members,” says Wade Koehler CAE, executive director, FCSI The Americas Division.

As at every NRA Show, FCSI will have a significant presence at the event this year, says Koehler. “FCSI The America’s Built TV show will be showcased at the Foodable IO film festival on Friday night and we will be pushing the Built TV show marketing during the show. Our Upper Midwest Chapter will once again host their Sunday evening cocktail hour. This event has become such a great social gathering for our industry over the past 5 years. When Paul Mackesey FCSI and Kristin Sedej FCSI started it back in 2010, I don’t think they ever thought it would grow to over 250 people. You can still register for it on the website,” he says.

For Koehler, it’s not just the networking opportunities that are likely to be a highlight for him. “Besides the Sunday evening networking event, I’m excited to see Bill Eaton FFCSI receive the FE&S Hall of Fame award and Todd Guyette FCSI receive the Top Achiever – Consultant award on Saturday night. At the show, I always like visiting the Kitchens Innovations area to see what’s new or coming soon,” he says.

For foodservice equipment manufacturers attending the show, it also represents a great opportunity to put new products in the spotlight, as well as meeting potential customers face-to-face. “NRA is the perfect venue to launch any of our new products and also to communicate one-on-one with end users from every facet, from chain driven to mom and pop restaurants. It gives total access to customers from all over the world as well, since this is fast becoming a well-respected international event,” says Kevin Keith, national project manager of Robot Coupe U.S.A., Inc.

“We have always participated with the Culinary competition at the NRA Show and had our product featured. This is important for us and creates great exposure. With the rapport we get when we have new products to launch, this is a great opportunity.”

For Kurt Powell, executive vice president, worldwide sales at BUNN, the benefits of exhibiting at NRA Show include being able to demonstrate his company’s expertise. “More restaurant operators attend this event than any other nationally or globally. A quality beverage menu is key to a successful restaurant and this show allows us to connect with customers seeking industry insights and innovative, profitable and reliable beverage equipment. Our discussions with customers never begin with equipment, but always with the best result in the cup. We are eager to demonstrate our solution that meets the demand for a premium, fresh ground, single cup of coffee with our new Sure Immersion bean-to-cup brewer,” he says.

Mark S. Graham, director of marketing, Kitchen Brains, says NRA Show offers “a yearly update on what is happening and changing in the foodservice industry. NRA offers Kitchen Brains the opportunity to showcase our leading edge IoT technology, through partnerships with Davisware, GrindMaster, Cecilware and HotSchedules, and our signature (FAST.) timers and controls.”

Graham is most looking forward to being able to showcase his company’s SCK Food Safety Manager, a 2016 Kitchen Innovations Award recipient at their booth and the Kitchen Innovations Pavilion.

For Glenn Bullock, CEO of Antunes, NRA is an important show as it gives his company “the opportunity to connect with customers, prospective customers and key industry leaders. Being able to showcase our countertop cooking and water filtration solutions to the foodservice industry can lead to new partnerships or deepen existing relationships. In addition to making connections with show attendees, we’re looking forward to debuting our new brand at this year’s show. The name and logo may look different, but our promise remains the same: to drive success for every customer,” he says.

For some companies, NRA Show represents a chance to celebrate their own milestones. “While Curtis has exhibited at NRA for decades, 2016 is a very special year. We’re celebrating 75 years of providing the industry with the best commercial coffee brewing equipment. There’s no better place than the NRA to observe such an important occasion,” says Krista Reddington, director of marketing, Wilbur Curtis Company.

“The NRA Show is the principal trade event in the foodservice industry, which is a core market for Curtis. It’s a great opportunity for industry consultants to meet with manufacturers and learn about new equipment and key features that help them spec with confidence,” she says.

For other industry professionals who are new to NRA Show, the event marks a first opportunity to see what all the fuss is about. “Since I started with MEIKO almost a year ago, I have heard a lot about NRA. I’ve been prepping for months. I want to revel in experiencing it for the first time and learn as much as I can,” says Heidi Moseley, marketing manager, MEIKO USA Inc.

“NRA allows MEIKO to meet with a wide range of people, especially end users. We can strengthen relationships with our consumers. There is also an opportunity to see the trends that are happening in the food and beverage industry.”

A full list of NRA Show exhibitors can be here. For more news and information from the National Restaurant Association, visit here

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