The National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) 100th annual restaurant show, held in Chicago last week, has posted record attendance numbers and space sales figures.
The event, which was held from May 18-21, boasted 723,069 square feet of exhibit space for the fifth consecutive year and saw an attendance increase of 3%, with 42,557 people present including restaurant operators, retail foodservice professionals, equipment dealers and food distributors.
The show’s producer, Mary Pat Heftman, declared the show “a success by every measure.”
She claimed: “Besides the record exhibit sales and strong attendance growth, the energy on the show floor was palpable. Education sessions were standing room only, there were delicious new foods at every turn, and once again, ingenuity was on display everywhere you looked.”
Highlights of the show included the annual Signature session which saw various senior leaders take part in a discussion about the future of dining, and the new Women Leaders Panel led by the James Beard Foundation, while there was also a 23 foot-high birthday cake to celebrate the centenary.
Amongst the show’s attendees were representatives from 92 of the top 100 restaurant brands, as well as contract management representation and dealer/distributor representation from a number of leading firms.
All 50 states were represented, with positive gains in several states – including both large states such as Texas and California, and more local states like Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan.
Meanwhile, there was also a distinctly international flavour to the event, with 100 countries represented and growth in attendance from key countries such as China, Japan and Colombia.
Heftman attributed the attendance growth to keeping the event fresh, as well as “keeping our focus on helping operators of all sizes grow their business and driving profitability.”
And there are already plans in place for next year’s show to be even bigger – with Heftman announcing on the first day that the 2020 event will be expanded to accommodate increasing demand for exhibit space.
“In order to accommodate the many exhibitors that want to join the show, and allow for booth expansion among current exhibitors, we simply need more space,” she claimed. “Adding more space and exhibitors also lets us bring to operators, more innovations and game-changing ideas than ever before.”