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NRA Show 2017: all you need to know

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With the National Restaurant Show 2017 due on 20 May here's our latest guide to everything you can see, hear and eat at the biggest, most exciting foodservice show in the US

While we have already published a comprehensive preview of NRA Show 2017, there is still a huge plethora of exciting options for those attending this expansive, fun show. This is our handy guide to the highlights of the broadest, most exciting foodservice show in the United States.

Big figures

  • The NRA Show is the restaurant and hospitality industry’s premier trade show for the latest in cutting-edge products, services and information. Each year more than 67,000 professionals and 2,000 exhibitors gather in Chicago for four days that will shape foodservice for an entire year.
  • This is the 98th anniversary of the NRA Show. Co-located with NRA Show is the two-day Beverage Alcohol for Restaurants (BAR) at NRA Show, a conference and exhibition focused on the critical nature of the bar program in a restaurant or foodservice establishment.
  • Building on the last year’s successful debut, the largest made-in-Italy Food & Wine Expo to be found outside the mother country once again takes up residence in the Lakeside Center exhibit hall. At Bellavita’s Wine & Food theatre, participate in one of the several masterclasses hosted by the finest top chefs and sommeliers in the business. See the full line up here.

New pavilions and exciting new attractions

  • Innovation Hub: This zone is actually comprised of a few distinctive sessions: the Innovation Theater, Tech Talks and the Startup Alley. The Innovation Hub has everything participants need to stay current on the latest industry innovations and insights, unlock best technological practices and trends and connect with tech-savvy startups poised to make a big impact in foodservice. NRA Show attendees will keep ahead of the competition with in-depth research and timely education sessions at the Innovation Theater. At this new auditorium they will participate in key discussions such as ‘The Impact of Customer-Facing Technology on Restaurant Design’ (Sunday 21 May between 2-2:45pm), ‘Key Trends Shaping the Future of Foodservice’ (Monday 22 May between 12-12:45pm) and ‘Bridging the Atlantic: US and UK Restaurant Trends’ (Monday 22 May between 4-4:45pm). Also, by participating in Tech Talks, attendees will unlock best technological practices and trends at fast-paced educational sessions. Tech Talks sessions include themes such as ‘Mapping the Restaurant Technology Landscape’ (Sunday 21 May between 11-11:30 am) and ‘Building an Enduring Restaurant Following’ (Sunday 21 May between 1-1:30pm). For a complete list of events happening at the Innovation Theatre and Tech Talk sessions please visit here.
  • SIGNATURE ’17: Ahead of the Crave – Sunday 21 May at 2:00pm- Grand Ballroom (S100)Signature ’17 is a pointed conversation between some of the brightest minds in the business. This year’s theme “Ahead of the Crave,” focuses on the empowered customer and identifies top emerging opportunities. Join NRA president & CEO Dawn Sweeney along with industry game changers such as Amazon Business’s Dan Park for a glimpse of how the landscape of business purchasing and selling is changing. Join the conversation and submit a question for us to discuss during Signature’17 using #Signature17 @NRAShowIntl. For more information, visit here.
  • Hot New Products – Every year hundreds of new products are launched at NRA Show. Select the ones that appeal to your audience so that you can write about them and their companies. For a list of new products, please visit here. Don’t miss Pete’s Living Greens Living Strips (Pete’s Living Greens Living Strips are the only packaged salad product designed for optimal flavor, freshness and convenience WITH ROOTS ATTACHED) and ZUMO Gazpacho (a 2017 sofi Award winner. It is a delicious “salad in a bottle.” They make their Gazpacho (cold vegetable soup, native to Spain) with only 9 ingredients & a touch of Mediterranean Seawater. Using Mediterranean Seawater enhances natural flavors & enriches with 78 bio-available electrolytes. Also in other flavors)
  • Special discounts – NRA Show exhibitors that will be offering discounts and product specials during the event. To learn more about the offers available to participants at NRA Show 2017 and write about the ones that would appeal more to your readers, visit here.
  • KI (Kitchen Innovations) Pavilion – For over a decade, the industry has trusted the KI Awards to recognize products that meaningfully improve the back of the house. Make no mistake–KI Award recipients will positively impact business operations everywhere. The KI Pavilion is home to all the KI Award recipients. For more information about the 2017 winners please visit here.
  • FABI Award Winners: The FABI Awards honor the year’s most delicious, unique and exciting food and beverage products that benefit restaurant operators and consumers. These are products that show breakthrough achievement in taste, marketability, creativity and profitability potential in foodservice operations. FABI 2017 Winners are here.
  • Foodamental Studio: Roll up your sleeves and, guided by industry experts, experiment with the processes and techniques behind today’s hottest food trends inspired dishes and international spices. For more information and for a complete schedule of interactive sessions, visit here.

Interactive presentations

All interactive presentations are extremely good. The official lineup includes:

  • Cool as a Kinilaw: Saturday 20 May between 3:00 – 3:45pm. Ricardo Jarquin from Travelle Kitchen + Bar (@TravelleChicago) will teach the Audience how to make a Filipino style ceviche made with traditional Filipino ingredients and flavors.
  • Food in a Flash: Sunday 21 May between 10:00 – 10:45am. Audience members will learn from famed food photographer Huge Galdones of Galdones Photography, the best strategies for photographing food for social media.
  • You Gotta know when to fold ‘em: Sunday 21 May between 1:45 – 2:30pm. James Lintelmann from Baptiste & Bottle will teach the audience how to make traditional Gyoza Japanese dumplings and educate them on different folding techniques used by various chefs.
  • Pasta perfecto: Monday 22 May between 12:30 – 1:15pm. Making the perfect pasta is an art so it’s essential to master the fundamentals. Chef Cameron Grant of Chicago’s Osteria Langhe, will teach the audience all the basics of pasta making, while walking through some of his most treasured and beloved years in Piemonte, Italy.
  • Cold Soups are Hot: Monday 22 May between 1:45 – 2:30pm. Are you ready for Summer? Join Angelina Bastidas (@chefangelinab) from Bin 36 as she shows how to take Spring and Summer fresh ingredients and turn them into cool soups perfect for the warm weather.
  • Break the mold: Tuesday 23 May between  12:30 – 1:15pm. Chef Jove Hubbard (@jovetee) from Cindy’s will demonstrate preparing a sorbet popsicle base, creating a popsicle mold and the steps to creating the refreshing treat, including dipping and finishing the popsicle.

World Culinary Showcase

Education becomes entertainment at World Culinary Showcase, where celebrity chefs demonstrated the techniques, tips and tricks that catapulted them into the spotlight. To know more about the chefs performing demonstrations, please visit here. We recommend:

  • Saturday 20 May between 12:00pm – 1:00pm Chef Maneet Chauhan (@ManeetChauhan). A recognized TV personality, cookbook author, active philanthropist and permanent Judge on Food Network’s show Chopped. Chef/owner of Chauhan Ale & Malsala House and co-owner of Mantra Artisan Ales in Nashville.
  • Saturday 20 May between 3:00 pm – 4:00pm – Duff Goldman (@duffgoldman ‏). Veteran of French Laundry, Vail Cascade Hotel and Todd English’s Olives. Opened Charm City Cakes in 2000. Star of hit Food Network show, Ace of Cakes. Graffiti artist, metal sculptor and musician.
  • Sunday 21 May between 12:00pm – 1:00pm– Stephanie Izard (@StephAndTheGoat). Executive Chef & Owner, Girl & the Goat, Little Goat and Duck Duck Goat. James Beard “Best Chef: Great Lakes” recipient 2013 and 2011 Food & Wine “Best New Chef.” First woman to win Bravo’s Top Chef.
  • Sunday 21 May between 3:00pm – 4:00pm – Matthew Kenney (@MatthewKenney_). World’s leading plant-based chef, the writer of several best-selling cookbooks, a culinary educator, and an entrepreneur specializing in the plant-based lifestyle.
  • Monday 22 May between 12:00pm – 1:00pm – Barton Seaver (@bartonseaver). Executive chef, Director of the Healthy and Sustainable Food Program at the Center for Health and Global Environment at Harvard, author and internationally recognized speaker on sustainable practices.
  • Tuesday 23 May between 12:00pm – 1:00pm – Jeff Mauro (@JeffMauro ‏). Host of The Kitchen and Sandwich King. Season 7 winner of Food Network Star. Executive chef of Pork & Mindy’s restaurants and retail line of sauces and meats.

Locating exhibitors and exporters

To find exhibitors that have expressed an interest in finding dealers, distributors, brokers or manufacturers’ representatives For more information, visit here.

To find exporters visit here.

Special Events

The fun shouldn’t end just because the show floor closes in the early evening. Keep things going well into the night with exclusive access to popular after-hours events. After-hours events include:

  • International Reception – ONLY for international visitorsNetwork with trade executives, exhibitors and other foodservice professionals from around the world who are interested in expanding their operations. Saturday 21 May between 5:00 – 6:30pm – North Building, Level 4, Room N427.
  • IFMA Gold & Silver Plate Awards:Celebrate the nation’s top operator talent at the IFMA Gold & Silver Plate Awards hosted by Joseph Fassler, 1996 Gold Plate Winner. Learn more here.
  • Restaurants Rock: Jam to the live grooves of the world’s premier Prince tribute band, The Purple Xperience. Have a drink (or two). Cut a rug. Chat up hundreds of hospitality pros. Whatever your pleasure, it’s all here for the taking at the official after-party of NRA Show and BAR 17. Tickets available via NRA Show registration: Register now here.
  • NRA Show Block Party: Chicago’s hippest bars, restaurants and clubs open their doors to serve up free food and drinks along with entertainment for NRA Show attendees. Attendance is free with your NRA Show badge. Learn more here. Monday 22 May between 9:30pm – 12:00am.
  • Specialty Pavilions: Sprinkled across the Show floor, these curated specialty areas and pavilions are grouped by top trends, products and emerging technology to help you navigate easily.
  • Startup Alley – showcases the creative, innovative startups poised to make a big impact in the foodservice industry. The list of companies can be found here.
  • Alternative BiteStyle: Spotlight on products and ingredients for vegetarian/vegan, low sodium, gluten-free, and allergic sensitivities.
  • Organic And Natural Pavilion: An oasis of organic, natural labels and products that ingredient-savvy consumers want to see on your menu.
  • Technology Pavilion: Top-to-bottom tech including mobile apps, mobile payment, POS, digital signage, data-driven solutions and more to improve transaction speed, communication, efficiency and cost.
  • Microsoft Digital Transformation: NRA Show once again teams up with Microsoft to bring you a fully immersive experience that not only explains digital solutions but also demonstrates how to make it work for your operation–from mobile apps to front-of-house management tools to smart kitchens.
  • Conserve Solutions Center: Sustainability focused products that lower costs, waste, energy use and environmental impact, plus attract eco-minded guests.
  • American Food Fair: U.S. Food producers and processors seeking export
  • Fast Innovation of Fast Casual & Pizza Summit – Join us for an exclusive networking event where you’ll learn from those innovating in strategic, market-savvy ways in this wildly successful foodservice concept. And walk away with ideas how to implement their key learnings into your own operation. (Separate registration required). Saturday 20 May between 8:15am to 3:00pm For more information, please visit here.
  • Foodservice at Retail Conference – Foodservice in grocery and c-stores continues to grow at an exponential rate. Let NRA Show’s Foodservice @ Retail Summit help you tap into this dynamic segment’s great potential. Sunday 21 May 21 and Monday 22 May. For more information, please visit here.
  • Non-Commercial Conference – This is a one-day conference built around topics that are unique to the education and health care space. Attendees can learn insigths at this new conference that tackles issues ranging from food sourcing, concept development, and adapting to ever shifting palates. Monday 22 May. For more information, please visit here.

Free education sessions on the show floor

Walk away inspired, informed, and ready to take on your big challenges. For four days and innumerous learning opportunities for attendees to refresh their skills about workforce development, business operations, food & nutrition and technology. All sessions are great, we recommend many including:

  • Saturday 20 May – 11:00 AM – 11:30 AM – Trends in Training: The Substance Behind the Buzzwords – Workforce Development
  • Saturday 20 May – 12:00 PM – 12:30 PM – Keeping Your Great Food Safe – Food & Nutrition
  • Saturday 20 May – 3:00 PM – 3:30 PM – Brand Buzz: 3 Breakthrough Secrets for Building a Winning Brand – Business Operations
  • Sunday 21 May – 10:00 AM – 10:45 AM – Attracting and Retaining Talent in a Challenging Environment – Workforce Development
  • Sunday 21 May – 2:00 PM – 2:45 PM – The Impact of Customer-Facing Technology on Restaurant Design – Business Operations
  • Monday 22 May – 12:00 PM – 12:45 PM – Key Trends Shaping the Future of Foodservice – Business Operations
  • Tuesday 23 May- 10:00 AM – 10:45 AM – Global Innovation: What We Can Learn from the Best New Concepts – Business Operations

Whatever you are hoping to see in at the show, enjoy and take in as much as you can. A final words of advice: comfortable shoes are recommended – there’s a lot of show floor to cover.