Event review: The NAFEM Show ’19

The NAFEM Show '19 was a one in a million sq ft event, with innovation at the forefront. Michael Jones reports

Insight, innovation and intelligent new ways to do business were the watchwords at The NAFEM Show ’19. The event, which took place 6-9 February, broke records for organizers the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers as more than 20,000 visitors hit the one million sq ft of floorspace at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.

Innovation at the heart

On display were products from over 600 of the world’s leading equipment and supplies (E&S) manufacturers, with a number of new launches on display for the first time at the show.

“NAFEM is still one of, if not the, premier international foodservice equipment shows that is focused on back-of-house operations and automation,” Dave Brewer, COO, Middleby Corporation, told me prior to the show.

“NAFEM is the cornerstone event for showcasing innovation. We time our innovation cycle around NAFEM, every two years.”

Indeed, this year saw most manufacturing groups and many large independents equipment companies increase the size of their booth space in order to capitalize on the massive visitor numbers.

Innovation was certainly pushed to the fore at the show this year with organizers keen to promote new technologies while showcasing how products have provided proven solutions in real-life applications to the foodservice and hospitality sector. This year The NAFEM Show updated the name of its four innovation lounges to ‘WHAT’S HOT! WHAT’S COOL! What Works!’ to convey exactly how equipment and supplies are impacting on the success of an operator, from cutting costs and labor to saving energy and much more.

In order for the the 23 shortlisted products to get a presence in the lounges, each submission had to demonstrate how it had fulfilled an operator’s “critical, unmet need” or answered a specific problem, as well as demonstrating quantifiable benefits, including energy efficiency, water savings, better food safety/reduction in waste or improvement in food quality, labor savings/productivity increases, eco-friendly materials, space/footprint reduction, etc., which positively affected the needs of the operator.

The lounges also played host to a number of insightful fireside talks and presentations from operators, analysts and manufacturers, many of which were chaired/introduced by Dawn Parker, a new member of the NAFEM headquarters team.

Consultant visitors in volume

FCSI professional members visited the show in high numbers this year. More than 170 consultants were in attendance at the FCSI The Americas Symposium 2019 at the same location earlier in the week, extending their stay in Orlando for the show in order to check out new equipment available for specification and to meet friends old and new.

From the perspective of FCSI The Americas Division executive director Wade Koehler, the show was a huge success. “The show this year exceeded our expectations,” says Koehler. “Our booth, in partnership with NAFEM, FEDA, CFESA and MAFSI, was amazing and the traffic this year was incredible. It was great to have a chance to sit down and talk with so many of our members and potential new member.”

The view was reiterated by his colleague from FCSI Worldwide. “I truly enjoyed attending the NAFEM show this year because of the time to interact with colleagues from around the world representing many different organizations and associations,” says Nick Vaccaro, executive administrator of FCSI Worldwide.

“As I walked through the trade show I was amazed at how the exhibitors have used new technology to display and market their brand. Whether attending the educational sessions or visiting the NAFEM exhibition, the experience does not disappoint. I always leave the show energized about what is happening in foodservice and how our industry is on the cutting edge to improve client and customer satisfaction.”

Koehler, alongside leading consultants, Joseph Schumaker FCSI and Ken Schwartz FCSI (pictured), took part in an absorbing panel session on the subject of ‘The Future of Foodservice’, supported by Irinox, which hosted the event at its booth.

The session, which was filmed and will be available to view on this website within the forthcoming week, addressed topics as diverse as automation, labor shortages and shrinking floorspace within commercial kitchen.

Ultimately, all of the participants remained positive for the future of the sector, feeling that many of the challenges being presented could be turned into opportunities with the help of talented consultants and their equipment manufacturing colleagues.

Delivering on promises

A closing party featuring the talents of Sheryl Crow and her band was a suitably celebratory way to end a show that had much to be excited about. The NAFEM Show ’19 was entertaining, enlightening and exciting and showcased an industry looking forward with positivity, following a relatively flat couple of years.

“During the planning process, NAFEM’s Trade Show Advisory Council often used the phrase ‘This will be the best NAFEM show ever’. Based on the business, educational and networking opportunities we saw in Orlando, I think we can definitely say they delivered on that promise in all aspects,” says Charlie Souhrada, CFSP, vice president, regulatory & technical affairs, NAFEM.

Further details

The NAFEM Show ’21 will take place on 4 – 6 February 2021 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans.

Michael Jones



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