The 97th annual National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show and the co-located BAR (Beverage Alcohol for Restaurants) at NRA Show, recently held at Chicago’s McCormick Place on May 21—24, posted record exhibit space and an uptick in total registration of more than 6 percent.
As the most comprehensive event for the foodservice industry, NRA Show/BAR 2016 brought a diverse range of industry segments together under one roof. In addition to thousands of independent and chain restaurateurs, NRA Show attendance included:
All of the top 50 restaurant brands in the world; 98 of the top 100 restaurant brands; Contract management representation from Aramark, Centerplate, Compass, Delaware North, Elior, and Sodexo; Dealer and distributor representation from Sysco, US Foods, Gordon’s Foodservice, TriMark, Wasserstrom, and Edward Don; and retail representation from Mariano’s, Lowe’s Foods, Oasis Stop & Go, ShopRite, Whole Foods, Wawa, and Sheetz.
“This Show is a huge trends resource,” says Nick Vojnovic, President of Little Greek, a 27-unit fast-casual brand out of Tampa, Florida. “The American consumer is getting more sophisticated and the Show is matching that this year with unique, high-quality items all around.”
“NRA Show 2016 really knocked it out of the park,” adds Megan Tallman, vice president, customer, and trade communications at The Coca-Cola Company. “From the caliber of attendees we met with to the number of leads generated to the overall buzz and energy, this was a blockbuster four days for our business.”
NRA Show/BAR 2016 growth
At more than 680,000 square feet, NRA Show was completely sold out and exceeded the previous NRA Show record of 638,424 by 7 percent.
More than 67,000 total registrants hailed from all 50 states and 100-plus countries. The Retail registration category saw the highest YOY growth with 21 percent, while the Dealer/Distributor and Restaurant/Foodservice Operator registration categories grew by 9 percent and 4 percent, respectively.
Registration for BAR increased by more than 5 percent over 2015, bringing total registration to more than 5,500 for the first time since the co-located event’s inception.
“NRA Show 2016 truly reflected the current state of the restaurant, foodservice and hospitality industry,” says Lisa Ingram, convention chair for NRA Show 2016 and president and CEO of White Castle System, Inc. “The sold-out exhibit floor represented major advancements in products and services that will solve a wide range of real-world operator challenges; the 80-plus educational sessions and demonstrations focused on today’s most relevant topics; and the excitement and optimism of attendees and exhibitors alike was unmistakable.”
NRA Show/BAR 2016 highlights
With a multitude of world-class speakers, celebrity chefs, and industry innovators, the NRA Show brought a new level of vibrancy to McCormick Place. National Restaurant Association President and CEO Dawn Sweeney led the brand new “Signature ’16: Turn the Tables” event in front of a standing-room-only crowd. Sweeney faced the future of local food with The Kitchen’s Kimbal Musk; talked the evolution of guest experience with Red Robin’s Denny Marie Post; and addressed the benefits of conveniently connecting diners and restaurants with Uber Everything’s Jason Droege.
Attendees raved about the “Reality Gets Real” session with Restaurant: Impossible’s Chef Robert Irvine and Bar Rescue’s Jon Taffer. Designed to offer solutions to attendees for common operational pitfalls, the off-the-cuff conversation focused on effective leadership, accepting and embracing change, and the need to constantly evolve to keep ahead of competition.
BAR 2016 expanded in its ninth year with additional programming, such as the new Main Stage Mixology Demonstrations from leading bartenders and spirit brand ambassadors Charles Joly of Crafthouse Cocktails and Breakthru Beverage Master Cicerone & Craft Beer Specialist Dave Kahle. Billy Dec, CEO and Founder of Rockit Ranch Productions, delivered the keynote presentation on the successes and challenges of creating impactful beverage programs. For added excitement, the annual Star of the Bar Finals hit the show floor for the first time, crowning Baron Stelling of Paragary’s Midtown and The Shady Lady Saloon in Sacramento as this year’s winner.
New vertical conferences showcased the evolution of the industry with concentrated focuses on fast casual, retail, and the growth of non-commercial foodservice. The Fast Casual Industry Council Meeting brought together key executives serving up the most exciting and profitable concepts in the growing fast casual segment. Meanwhile the Foodservice at Retail Conference tackled key issues in the space, including recruiting and training culinary staff and developing a true culture of foodservice in a traditionally retail environment. The Non-Commercial Conference explored unique concepts being rolled out in educational and health care operations, tackling topics from local sourcing to home meal delivery to operationalizing health and wellness, and innovative marketing and promotions.