Magazines Archives - 2009 February

What’s hot @ NRA Show: Asian cuisine - Show offers new profit-building solutions
Story 2 - Cover Story

What makes the 90th edition of the annual NRA Show, which will be held in May 2009, even more compelling than ever, particularly for Asian buyers and exhibitors? Jennee Grace U Rubrico finds out.

Asian participation at the National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show (NRA Show), the largest restaurant and hospitality trade fair in the Americas, is expected to be solid this year.

The 90th edition of the annual event, which will be held from May 16-19 at the McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois, will showcase products from China, Taiwan, Japan and other parts of the Asia-Pacific, with China’s CIEC Overseas Exhibition Company Ltd, China, the Taiwan External Trade Development
Council and the JRO Japan setting up pavilions alongside other exhibiting companies from the region.

Interest among Asian suppliers in the trade show hardly comes as a surprise in light of the findings of a recent study by show organiser NRA revealing that Asian cuisines and products continue to enjoy widespread support in the West.

The study, Chef Survey: What’s Hot in 2009, was conducted last October involving 1,600 professional chefs and members of the American Culinary Federation who ranked Asian products among the top 208 in the US food trends for the year ahead.

The study placed dim sum (Chinese snacks) eighth on the overall list, along with other small plates such as tapas (a Spanish appetiser) and mezze (of Greek and Middle Eastern origins).

This was followed in order by exotic fruits, including passion fruit, dragon fruit, durian and guava, as the 15th hottest trend for 2009. Ethnic-inspired breakfasts are also popular, with Asianflavoured
syrups taking the 22nd spot and Thai basil placed 47th, while traditional ethnic breakfasts like huevos
rancheros (Mexican dish), shakshuka (Israeli recipe), ashta (of Lebanese origins) and Japanese food came in at 59th in the line-up.

Still more regional products that made it to the top 100 in the NRA findings were Asian-inspired entrée
salads at 64th, green tea at 79th and Australian wines at 100th. Other Japanese food items that also figured in the ranking were miso (soya-based product), nori (seaweed), wasabi (horse-radish
paste) and sake (alcoholic drink).

Asian products have been found to top various menu categories, with ethnicinspired recipes emerging as the dominant trend for breakfast/brunch followed by traditional ethnic breakfasts.

For kids’ meals, exotic fruits have claimed fourth spot, while speciality iced tea, including Thai tea, topped the list for non-alcoholic beverages. (For more on trends, see boxed story on Top trends for 2009.)

“Asia is very important [to the US food-service industry] as demonstrated by the cuisine trends in the US,” affirms Mary Pat Heftman, NRA’s executive vice-president for convention, noting that NRA Show 2009 attendees and

buyers expect to network with Asian suppliers on the exhibit floor. For Asian buyers, the show continues
to hold an attraction, with 1,800 exhibitors from around the world showcasing their wares. After all, the
region remains an attractive market for the US, whose exports to Asia have hit “record highs in recent months”, albeit due in large part to the weak US dollar, Heftman observes.

“Asia will likely continue to be a growing component of that market in the short term and long term, as their economies continue to expand at robust rates,” she predicts. Why go?

Heftman exhorts restaurateurs and stakeholders in the Asian food-service and hospitality sector to attend NRA Show 2009, stressing that, with food, labour and energy costs on an upward
spiral, and consumers cutting back on spending, they need to keep abreast of new information, products and services that capture the public’s culinary interest.

“Given the current economic situation, all food-service, hospitality and retail industry segments are challenged to discover new profit-building solutions. By attending NRA Show 2009, attendees will efficiently and cost-effectively discover all the products, services and information they need to drive topline sales and succeed,” she says.

“The NRA Show is the one trip that delivers it all under one roof: Exhibitors will deliver new products, services, contacts and information, [while] attendees need to control costs, innovate their menus, attract and retain customers as well as go green, improve efficiency, increase customer satisfaction, train and motivate employees and increase profits,” the convention executive asserts.

To maximise the benefits of attending NRA Show 2009, Heftman encourages participants to bring a team: “They can assign members to gather information on different categories and suppliers,
then come together to compare notes and quickly make informed decisions.”

Companies that send teams, she says, can cover the exhibition floor faster and penetrate it deeper; do comparison shopping among the different suppliers and products; take advantage of more
show-only discounts and specials; negotiate deals directly in face-to-face contact with suppliers; and discover more new cost-saving solutions.

“Consumers are increasingly adven-turous. They are constantly seeking out new flavours and dining experiences. Therefore, operators need to be constantly looking for new concepts to keep ahead of a fast-changing market,” Heftman reasons.

Participants can also avail themselves of the free educational sessions at the show. The NRA Show has scheduled over 65 educational sessions on profitability and entrepreneurship; jobs and careers; food and healthy living; and sustainability and social responsibility. “The sessions will deliver new costcontrol, profit-building and operational improvement solutions. Recognised industry experts will offer solid strategies and proven experiences to help attendees improve their business in these
tough economic times,” says Heftman.

“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 at the show,” she adds.

The International Wine, Spirits & Beer (IWSB) Event, which made its debut last year, is set to be re-staged, in conjunction with NRA Show 2009, with more products, the organiser states.
“We are booking top experts for the free education programmes, and attract-ing both new and well-established alcohol brands to exhibit. Beverage alcohol is critical to the success of many operators
and those operators are focusing on the category more than ever,” Heftman says.

“The success of IWSB 2008, which showcased over 400 brands and products, made it clear that operators are looking towards this year’s event for beverage alcohol products, services and
information in a calm, professional, oneon- one environment. With that in mind, all indications are that even more products, services and information will be showcased at IWSB 2009 to meet operator
needs,” she adds.

Session topics for this event will include menu trends, including signature cocktails and alcohol-food pairings; strategies to build bar-programme profitability; responsible service; and innovative marketing and promotions, the NRA reveals.

“Even in this tough economy, consumers still make wine, beer and cocktails part of their restaurant experience, and professionals from all industry segments and channels are making the most of their bar programmes by creating innovative signature drinks, suggesting pairing ideas and offering exciting new brands,” states Lorna Donatone, convention chair, NRA Show 2009, and president of school services, Sodexo Inc.

“Every business decision matters, and the outstanding education programme presented by recognised industry experts in the IWSB 2009 will offer ideas, solutions and strategies to help increase margins, develop successful marketing and promotions, improve responsibility and maximise distributor

NRA research also pointed out wine-by-the-glass and signature drinks as 2009 hot trends in restaurants, with nine out of 10 table-service operators seeing wine-by-the-glass becoming more
popular in restaurants this year.

Special pavilions: Special pavilions will again be set up at the coming NRA Show. The American
Food Fair, which is organised by the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), will once again showcase the best products that the US has to offer.

This exposition works to provide a wealth of education, research, industry relations, government-affair services and the ultimate restaurant, catering and lodging exposition in North and South America.

DeWitt Ashby, director for trade shows at NASDA, recently led a team to China in a road show for the NRA trade event. He declines to say how many Chinese participants are expected at the 2009 show, explaining that it is “difficult to predict” under the current economic circumstances.

For the 2008 show, NASDA brought in 180 Chinese participants who sat through seminars and networked with exhibitors on the floor. This year, Ask the Design Experts will again offer its free 30-minute consultation for leading designers, while The Edge Design Pavilion will showcase
new ideas in furniture, graphics, design, textiles, lighting, fixtures and flooring.

The Franchise Pavilion seeks to bring together franchisees and franchisors, financial consultants and private institutional investors, while the International Cuisine Pavilion will highlight new flavours and adventurous culinary concepts.

The Kitchen Innovations Pavilion will display the most innovative commercial kitchen equipment available in the market while the Technology Pavilion will host special demonstrations,
educations and exhibits on restaurant point-of-sale systems, wireless technology, inventory control and
customer relationships. The expanded Organic & Natural Pavilion will showcase more certified organic and natural products.

Meanwhile, Canada is setting up a country pavilion for the first time, alongside NRA Show regulars France, Spain, Australia and New Zealand. Other attractions offered by NRA Show 2009 include celebrity book signings, the second Annual Joint Hennessy/Hill Awards Breakfast, Chef Day, and the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association Hospitality Luncheon.

Says Heftman: “Given the depressed value of the US dollar, visiting the NRA Show this year is an incredible value.”


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2009 February Stories:

Retailing in recession Part 2: Some key do’s and don’ts for Asian retailers

US imposes tighter limits on lead content in products for children

What’s hot @ NRA Show: Asian cuisine - Show offers new profit-building solutions

Bigger HOFEX more attractions

HR Training & Service Excellence in Retail - Key areas for retail training identified

HR Training & Service Excellence in Retail - Going beyond training into service excellence

HR Training & Service Excellence in Retail - Retailers won’t scrimp on training

Global downturn dictating consumer choices

Tampines 1 launch will coincide with Uniqlo’s debut in Singapore

YCH, Frasers ink pact to develop hub in Chengdu

Process payments on the go

Alliance lets OFWs shop for their families back home

US$25.95m initiative aims to boost grain supply in South Asia

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