National Restaurant Show Sees Record 8-percent Uptick on Showfloor in Chicago
The 96th annual National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show and the collocated BAR (Beverage Alcohol for Restaurants) at NRA Show, held at Chicago’s McCormick Place on May 16-19, posted record exhibit space and a 3 percent uptick in registration in the key buyer category of restaurant and foodservice operators.
“Across all three halls and all four days of NRA Show and BAR, the optimism of the restaurant and hospitality industry could be felt around every corner,” said John Metz, Jr., 2015 NRA Convention Chair and Executive Chef, CEO and Co-founder of Marlow’s Tavern.
He added, “The energy and excitement of our industry coming together to shop, learn, connect and discover was palpable in every conversation, transaction and presentation that took place here.”
The showfloor spanned more than 637,000 square feet, which was more than 8 percent growth, compared with the previous NRA Show record of 629,878 that was set in 2000.
This year also was the first year that NRA Show exhibit space spanned across three buildings – McCormick Place’s North Building, South Building and Lakeside Center.
More than 63,000 total registrants came from all 50 states and 100-plus countries. The Restaurant and Foodservice Operator registration category saw the highest percentage of growth at 3 percent, followed by the Lodging category with an increase of 2 percent.
“I was blown away by the number of executives I saw right from the start of the Show,” said exhibitor Howard Bender, founder and owner of Schmaltz Deli. “Multi-unit executives, international multi-unit executives – many of whom visited us last year when we were a start-up – came back ready to buy.”
Registration for BAR increased by more than 9 percent, compared with 2014, bringing total registration to more than 5,000 for the first time since the collocated event’s inception.
This year’s event featured three Keynote Presentations by industry leaders.
• The NRA Show 2015 Keynote, State of the American Dream 2015: Empowerment featured a one-on-one talk with Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post Media Group and Dawn Sweeney, president and chief executive officer of the National Restaurant Association. Sweeney and Huffington talked at length about what Huffington calls the “third metric for success”, which is taking time for oneself and not sacrificing health and wellness for money and power.
• The BAR15 Keynote by Sally Smith, CEO of Buffalo Wild Wings, presented the brand’s philosophy of proactive bar program investment and management that includes evolving in sync with consumer trends and customer behavior.
• The Restaurant Finance Summit 2015 Keynote by Russ Bendel, CEO of The Habit Burger Grill, provided a detailed look into the process of filing an IPO and the insights he gained and lessons he learned during one of the most successful restaurant IPOs in recent history.