Show Of Shows: NRA 2012

National Restaurant Association

Attendees will find new pavilions, events, and something for everyone

Every May, horse lovers find their way to Louisville for The Kentucky Derby while restaurateurs have a different destination in mind—the National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show in Chicago.

For 93 years, operators have been making the annual trek looking for trends, products, networking, and business intelligence.

“I've been attending the NRA show for almost 40 years, and it's amazing how it has evolved and improved over those years,” says Phil Hickey, chairman of O’Charley’s Inc. and vice chair of the National Restaurant Association (NRA).

“I now approach each show with high expectations—that is, high ROI and high ROTI. The Return on Investment (ROI) is always profound, as each year my teams and I gain insight into making our business more profitable, far in excess of the investment required to attend.

“In addition, time is money, and the Return on Time Invested (roti) is always exceptional—time spent learning of new technologies, new equipment, creative food ideas, and innovative beverage concepts; meeting industry luminaries, seeing old friends, attending topical seminars that provide answers for my most pressing needs; well worth the time invested."

This year the show was moved up a few weeks to May 5-8 so that it wouldn’t have to compete with the G-8 Summit, a global leadership meeting that was scheduled for Chicago. The G-8 meeting has since been moved to Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, but the NATO summit is still coming to the Windy City on May 20.

“We considered changing the dates, and we looked at Las Vegas and Orlando,” says Mary Pat Heftman, executive vice president, convention. “We realized the experience was not going to be the same for our attendees, and Chicago is just such a wonderful city. We didn’t want that experience changed.”

NRA Show attendance usually numbers about 60,000 people and draws from about 115 countries and all 50 states.

During the show, which is held at McCormick Place, about 550,000 square feet is used for exhibitors and the total square footage totals about 1.2 million square feet.


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