The NAFEM Show 2019: preview

The NAFEM Show remains a hugely influential and important event. Michael Jones talks to organizers and exhibitors about what to expect

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

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

The importance of the NAFEM Show, organised by The North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers (NAFEM), who represent 550+ foodservice equipment and supplies manufacturers in the US, remains undiminished. The NAFEM Show 2019, held this year on 7-9 February at the Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, Florida, is the world’s leading biennial experience of innovative foodservice equipment and supplies for food preperation, cooking, storage and table service.

So, what can members of FCSI expect from this year’s event? “At The NAFEM Show, FCSI members can expect a world where the business of foodservice equipment and supplies takes center stage,” says Charlie Souhrada, CFSP, vice president, regulatory & technical affairs, NAFEM.

“We understand consultants have to help their customers face real, everyday challenges, from saving on energy and water costs, to increased competition.

When it comes to foodservice, consumers demand quick, modern and memorable experiences, our exhibiting companies know this better than anyone and are here to equip FCSI members with the information they need to serve their clients,” he says.

Valuable opportunities

The NAFEM show is, “a great way to kick off the New Year,” says Bill Johnson, president & CEO, Welbilt. “With more than 10,000 attendees, the show brings together foodservice experts, culinary professionals and some of the most forward-thinking minds of the global foodservice equipment industry to engage on current trends, innovation, and to present their latest product line-ups. For Welbilt, it’s a valuable opportunity to connect with our channel partners, showcase our new products and share our vision for the of Welbilt and its brands.”

Alberto Zanata, CEO, Electrolux Professional, agrees the networking element is the show’s biggest strength: “NAFEM is the one show in North America where we meet our industry partners. This allows us to work with our friends at FEDA, FCSI and CFESA to highlight the solutions we have developed to address the industry’s need for innovative solutions for simplicity, cost efficiency and sustainability.”

The power of networking at the NAFEM Show is, “always a highlight and an element that can’t be underestimated,” says Souhrada. “Every two years, the industry’s best and brightest gather to exchange ideas, explore game-changing solutions and experience world-class entertainment.”

For Johnson, the NAFEM show is “a unique opportunity” to network and build powerful partnerships with channel partners, customers and vendors. “Given that I only recently started my new role as president and CEO, it will be great to reconnect with industry colleagues, but also with Welbilt employees who come to the show from many of our global locations,” he says.

The 2019 show is, says Souhrada, built on the strong foundation of the association’s previous shows and will expose consultants to a world of possibilities to share with clients.

“This show will be special because of an increased focus on the inner workings of proven foodservice success, like the products on display in the WHAT’S HOT! WHAT’S COOL!® What Works! lounges. In the NAFEM booth, there will be a focus on NAFEM’s expanded government advocacy efforts and a series of brief education sessions on a variety of topics. We’re also proud to share this prominent space on the floor with NAFEM’s allied partners CFESA, FEDA, MAFSI and, of course, FCSI. This will make it easier for members to network and demonstrates the channel’s unified strength.”

Feeling positive

According to Brewer, NAFEM also heralds an optimistic mood for the foodservice industry as it looks to utilize that unified strength and move on in 2019 from a recent period of relative stasis and retrenchment. “It’s not news that the foodservice industry has been in a low for the last few years, but there is tremendous momentum for restaurant operators right now, around the world in foodservice. It’s at a fever pitch,” he says.

“There are a lot of new concepts and refranchising, there is tremendous expansion by small brands as well as regional and international brands. I think the traffic count at the show is going to be abnormally high and the intent on purchasing new technology for the kitchen is probably going to be the highest we’ve seen in the last three NAFEMs. Our sales numbers are way up this year and our customers are all forecasting growth this year.”

The world of foodservice, says Brewer, is changing rapidly, and the primary driver is an increased need for more automation in the sector. “We now need cooking and holding equipment that is flexible. Gone are the days when a product could only do one thing. You’ve got to have flexibility built into every piece of equipment because over the life cycle of a piece of equipment it could be producing over 50 different types of product over five to 10 years.”

Restaurant operators around the world are suffering through an employee supply issue, he adds. “They cannot find the numbers of people to work in foodservice. The equipment issue has therefore become a seriously important issue. Typically, in the past, food safety always ranked number one, followed by speed of service and menu flexibility.

Now, I would argue that kitchen automation is a foodservice operator’s number two priority.”

Meeting challenges

Addressing the industry’s need for automation has become a pressing one, says Brewer. “Just look at the numbers. The average restaurant in the contiguous US is operating underemployed by between two to three people, depending on which statistic you look at, per restaurant. Globally it’s not much better. The operator is therefore looking for product news all the time, to get customers to come into the restaurant.”

“It’s probably the hardest job in the world, managing a restaurant. The industry needs more automation, simplification of the back of house and speeding up of service. Our goal is to have an employee come in and our equipment be so easy to use and intuitive that they are producing products to spec within an hour. That’s our vision. So, at NAFEM we’re going to be demonstrating automated cooking, whether it’s the use of co-bots, assisted manufacturing processes for cooking, beverage and control technology,” he says.

Electrolux Professional will also look to demonstrate how their products can benefit operators. “As we strive to make the operators’ work-life balance easier, we develop innovative solutions to address their needs,” says Zanata.

“Electrolux, including Grindmaster-Cecilware and our various brands, continues to evolve away from showing boxes on the floor and instead showcase the benefits of an integrated solutions provider. Benefits from various views – operators, managers, investors and maintenance – to make our customers’ work-life easier, more profitable and also sustainable.

“Our emphasis this year will be on the integration of a solution that thaws, cooks, chills and retherms food products. Secondarily, we will be highlighting speed. Because after all, time is money,” he says.

Besides the opportunity to showcase Electrolux’s latest innovations in foodservice, Zanata is also looking forward to sharing his company’s take on sustainability at large. “To keep transforming everyday life is a responsibility that we all share. At NAFEM, all of the industry steps up to the challenge of improving the efforts of our customers’ daily lives. NAFEM is an arena to collaborate for better solutions and a better society.”

For Welbilt’s Johnson, NAFEM is also an opportunity to demonstrate how his company has embraced its rebrand and is living up to their name. “Two years ago, at the NAFEM show, we presented ourselves for the first time as Welbilt. We had just rebranded and launched our new name, look and design. Now, two years later, we truly are Welbilt.

“Our corporate identity is strong, our product portfolio is comprehensive, and our team is committed to deliver the highest quality, innovative products and systems while offering best-in-class global service. We have listened to our customers and focused on their needs.

“At this year’s show, visitors will see some of those results. We will showcase our latest product line-up and offer seminars on segments and kitchen connectivity. We’d like to invite you to stop by at our booth [# 3200] to see kitchen solutions that are stunning in their simplicity yet practical in their ability to help foodservice operators be successful,” he says.

At NAFEM this year, Welbilt will be showcasing some new products as well as many upgrades. Among those are the Delfield® Specification Line, the Multiplex® FreshBlender and Welbilt’s KitchenConnect® – which are also featured in the WHAT’S HOT! WHAT’S COOL! What Works! lounges.

“KitchenConnect, our premier digital platform to connect kitchen operations, will highlight how data insights and analysis can help foodservice operators to take more informed business decisions,” says Johnson.

“What we also look forward to is the launch of Crem™ in the US. We acquired Crem International early in 2018 and are now ready to offer its product line to our US customers. Crem develops, manufactures and markets coffee machines for use in offices, restaurants, cafes and coffee shops, catering and convenience stores. It’s a great addition to our brand portfolio and it will be a great product for many of our US and global customers.”

Middleby Corporation is looking to do things a little differently at the 2019 show. “This year at the show we are going to change things up a bit,” says Brewer.

“What I can say is that we’re looking at having a completely different, interactive experience for our customers. We’ll be showing off 50 different brands at NAFEM. We are excited to be launching new products and in literally every square foot of the booth there will be new features and benefits on every piece of equipment. Our focus will be on throughput, flexibility and automation for kitchen food production.”

Michael Jones


NAFEM’s Charlie Souhrada on what is different about this year

One notable difference is the WHAT’S HOT! WHAT’S COOL!® What Works! lounges – home to equipment and supplies innovations from exhibitors across the show floor. This year, we’ll showcase equipment and supplies success stories – and the impact they have had on real-life foodservice operations. From cutting costs and labor to saving energy and much more, selected equipment and supplies that have proven to make a significant difference will be displayed throughout the show floor in four, unique lounges.

NAFEM’s Charlie Souhrada: key issues that will shape 2019

Our industry is experiencing a rapidly changing regulatory environment. In the US this is especially true in relation to energy consumption, environmental concerns and issues of trade. Over the past several years, NAFEM has increased its ability to help members and the industry keep pace with these changes, understand potential effects and identify ways to help secure favorable outcomes It’s hard to pinpoint where the biggest impact in 2019 will be, but it is safe to say that every NAFEM member will continue to be impacted by some sort of government regulation, whether it’s BPA in smallwares, emissions on the hot side, refrigerants on the cold side or trade duties and tariffs on everything. Throughout, we’re increasing our visibility, participating in important discussions and leveraging relationships so member needs and those of the industry are part of the conversation.

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