Magazines Archives - 2008 November

The NRA Show remains important as dynamic industry event
Story 3 - Special Report


WHEN the 90th edition of the annual National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show (or the NRA Show) is staged in Chicago, Illinois, USA, from 16-19 May 2009, it will be set amidst a challenging global economic environment.

Consumer spending, which nosedived this year — due to the US subprime woes and the recent financial crunch that saw some of the world’s biggest names in investment banking and insurance declaring bankruptcy and being bailed out — is expected to remain sluggish as the world’s biggest economy struggles to ride out the crisis.

The impact of the US economic slowdown has also spread to other markets and, coupled with the runaway prices of oil and other commodities, the global outlook appears bleak.

The restaurant industry has not been spared. Already, research companies have reported that consumers, in the US, and elsewhere, are dining out less to save on petrol as well as cut back on unnecessary expenses.

In its recently-released report, Food and Beverage 2012: A Taste of Things to Come, research company Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu noted that high relative food prices “should lead to a shift away from eating meals outside the home”.

Meanwhile, consumer research firm Mintel also revealed in a study, released before the financial crisis broke out in the US, that 54% of Americans who used to dine out regularly have cut back on such spending in light of rising gas and food prices as well as home foreclosuresand fears of recession.

“When you consider the price of casual and fine dining, staying in can reduce costs significantly,” senior Mintel analyst David Morris noted.

It is precisely because of this challenging scenario that the NRA Show has become more relevant to stakeholders in the food-service and retail industries, said Mary Pat Heftman, National Restaurant Association Solutions LLC’s executive vice-president for convention.

“This is indeed a challenging economic environment for the US restaurant industry, with rising food and energy prices, cautious consumer spending and a turbulent financial market.

However, the industry is still on track this year to post record sales of US$558 billion, with the restaurant [sector] one of the few industries still creating jobs Dubbed “the largest restaurant and hospitality trade show in the western hemisphere”, the National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show 2009 will bring together more than 2,200 exhibitors and 71,500 visiting industry professionals from more than 100 countries.

while the overall job market is running in negative [territory],” she noted. “The NRA Show presents unparallelled opportunities for US and international restaurateurs and retailers to gain knowledge and find new products that can give their business a competitive edge to weather economic challenges.

“Attendees are under more pressure than ever to find solutions to their challenges. Therefore, they will be coming to the NRA Show ready to make purchase decisions,” Heftman said.

“At the same time, exhibitors are under pressure to showcase new products and value. Combining the exhibitor and buyer perspectives, the NRA Show 2009 is taking shape as an extremely important and dynamic event for the industry.”

Next year’s show, organised by the NRA in cooperation with the US Department of Commerce, the Foreign Agricultural Service of the US Department of Agriculture and the National Association of State Depart ments of Agriculture, will bring together more than 2,200 exhibitors and 71,500 visiting industry professionals from more than 100 countries.

Dubbed “the largest restaurant and hospitality trade show in the western hemisphere”, the event will examine trends and offer more exhibitors, products and services, free educational seminars, networking events and business opportunities than any other industry event.

Heftman confirmed that among the issues to be tackled at the show is the dwindling budget for eating out. “While consumer spending is currently cautious, American consumers are reluctant to cut back too much on their dining out as they consider it a standard of living.

“We will certainly address ways to capture consumer interest and get them in the door in our free education sessions,” she assured, adding that “there will be great value overall in the NRA Show ... a one-stop-shop for restaurateurs and retailers to find solutions to operational challenges”.

Also a place to explore trends, next year’s show will tackle workforce issues, analyse the direction F&B technology is headed and discuss environmental sustainability.

“Many trends ... next year will be tied to increasing productivity and cutting costs, including incorporating technology solutions to improve customer service and efficiency, saving water and energy to ‘go green’ and reduce utility costs, and training and motivating staff,” Heftman elaborated.

The show will also present the results of NRA’s annual ‘What’s Hot’ chef survey where the American Culinary Federation members rate the hottest F&B items, cuisines, preparation methods and menu trends.

Show visitors can also expect the NRA Show 2009 to be a launch pad forinnovative products. In fact, products and services introduced in past shows are now industry standards. At this year’s show, held in May, more than 500 “hot new” products and services were launched.

“It stands to reason that, in the currently challenging economic environment, exhibitors are working hard to develop new products and services to help operators and retailers grow. As the NRA Show has historically been a premier venue for launches, we expect a huge array of new products and services [next year]”, Heftman explained.

There will be additional country pavilions next year, she said. Industry groups present at the May 2008 show will return, with the Organic and Natural Pavilion to be expanded to 6,400sqf from 3,200sqf and the number of its exhibitors expected to rise to 52 from 26, the organiser added.

In addition, the International Trade Center — complete with lounge areas, private meeting rooms, business matchmaking services and free beverage — will be set up as a venue for buyers the world over to connect with US exporters.

A multilingual staff will be on hand to assist guests who do not speak English. Interpreters will be available for the following: Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

Conferences at the next NRA Show will offer over 70 free educational sessions that will touch on all aspects of the restaurant-and-hospitality business. Their topics will cover profitability and entrepreneurship, jobs and career, food and healthy living, and sustainability and social responsibility.

“Whether it is building a successful ‘beverage alcohol’ programme, enhancing customer service, exploring culinary artistry and trends, training employees, improving efficiency or increasing environmental practices, there are myriad opportunities to learn from experts and peers,” Heftman pointed out.

And, fresh from its successful debut at the NRA Show 2008, the International Wine, Spirits & Beer (IWSB) will be held again, from 17-18 May 2009, in conjunction with the next event.

“The inaugural IWSB event ... was an overwhelming success, and we are building on that success to produce an even better event [next] year.

“As the industry’s first professional event in the US exclusively focused on restaurant and food-service beverage alcohol programmes, [the IWSB will bring in] top experts for its free education programmes, and will attract both new and well-established alcohol brands to exhibit,” Heftman enthused.

“Beverage alcohol is critical to the success of many operators and those operators are focusing on the category more than ever.

“The success of IWSB 2008, which showcased over 400 brands and labels, made it clear operators are looking to the NRA for beverage alcohol products, services and information in a calm, professional, one-on-one environment. And all indications are that even more ... will be showcased at IWSB 2009 to meet operator needs,” she added.

Although the expo is still months away, bookings pouring in demonstrate that the NRA Show 2009 will, like its past stagings, be a sold-out affair, Heftman said.

She attributed the show’s popularity to the opportunities and business solutions it offers to industry players.

“Attending the four-day event is one of the smartest business decisions an industry professional can make. There is no more cost-effective and efficient way to discover the products, services, information and contacts you need to improve your business than attending NRA Show 2009,” Heftman averred.

To enjoy a discounted registration fee of US$30 per person, participants have up to December 1 to register online. The fee will be raised to US$40 from December 2 onwards and to US$80 starting 10 April 2009.


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