NRA 2018: Recapping the Experience
With a show floor the size of Texas, spanning three different areas of McCormick Place and more than 66,000 attendees – The National Restaurant Association Show is quite an experience. The wide array of food service and restaurant products, technology and education, are astonishing. This show is one to experience – no doubt.
What did the QSR Automations team experience while in Chicago?
To no one’s surprise – we experienced a mouth full of food every day. The food is never ending during NRA. After all, isn’t that the entire reason we attend this show to eat? There are vendors and live food demonstrations, some booths with lines wrapped around the next isle waiting for delicious treats. Chobani’s booth is always a big hit. Who knew there were so many exciting and savory ways to eat yogurt? Some of the hottest food trends we experienced focused on healthy eating options, plant-based alternatives, and healthier snacks. Health foods were hot this year! Restaurant Business even cited a “vegetable takeover” as a trend that surfaced on day two of the show.
Then, of course – the nightlife after the show in Chicago boasts some of the best restaurants in the nation. Every year the QSR team makes their annual trip to Giordano’s (Did you know they are one of our fabulous customers?) to grab a slice of Chicago style pizza. And just like previous years, they didn’t disappoint this year. This year we ventured over to Kaiser Tiger with our strategic partners, OpenTable for a night of fun, food, and drinks. Part of our team hit up the House of Blues one night and others hit up Mercadito for their award-winning tacos! Talk about mouthwatering goodness. There is no shortage of food options both at the show and in Chicago for NRA.
This is the show of the year for the food service and hospitality industry. The best of the best is all gathered in one city, under one roof to share their expertise, knowledge, and friendship. After all, we’re all trying to stay on top of the latest restaurant and food trends, working to provide the best guest experience for diners and looking for the best partnerships for our products and solutions. Friendships were overflowing last week in Chicago, and we’re thankful for that! We had the opportunity to catch up with our partners and friends from OpenTable, Custom Business Solutions, Call Systems Technology, Squirrel Systems, PAR as well as many others! We even had a chance to connect with some of our valued customers.
There was no shortage of technology offerings at NRA. Did you have a chance to stop by the dedicated Tech Pavilion that showcases the best of the best, from FOH to BOH? What about startup alley? This year technology was another hot, trending topic at the show. We saw robots, drones, an influx of cloud POS technology, and many suites of technology products that focused on the use of data and analytics to optimize efficiency and profitability for restaurant operators in everything from labor and scheduling to automation. Of course, our booth showcased our smart kitchen display system, ConnectSmart® Kitchen and our smart guest management platform, ConnectSmart®Host (Formerly DineTime). If you stopped by, you were able to experience these two technologies and how they can enhance your restaurant’s off-premise strategy with real-time data and alerts. This feature is powerful in today’s consumer-driven, convenience needing market!
With more than 100 educational sessions and culinary demos, NRA was filled with ways to sharpen your skills and learn from industry experts. The sessions covered a variety of topics from improving operations, executing on off-premise, food and nutritional guidelines, workforce development, and more.
You heard that right, our team got our exercise in for the week. In fact, I just about broke my Fitbit while at the show! I averaged 15,000 steps a day, which equates to walking roughly six miles a day. If you walked all three of the halls, you know that there are more than 700,000 square feet of restaurant vendors to visit.
While there are tons of booths at NRA every year and they seem to get bigger and better with each show, there are a few noteworthy ones to mention. HotSchedules, Fourth and Long Range Systems had some impressive booths to showcase their technology. Squirrel Systems made some enhancements to their digs this year – adding the nice blue light effects.
Did you get a chance to experience the NEW QSR Automations booth? It was a site to see, but more importantly, it was quite the experience – providing guests with a real-life experience of how our products work.
Next year, the National Restaurant Association show will be celebrating their 100th show, and we can’t wait to take part in the special occasion. We look forward to seeing you in 2019!
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Amber Mullaney provides and guides all things marketing for QSR. A proud Texan native, she graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in Public Relations and spent her career in the healthcare industry before making the switch to QSR, saying she loves a good challenge. Amber has a long list of things she loves, including tacos (especially tacos), sweet tea, Texas, the outdoors, and traveling with her husband and two daughters.