The National Restaurant Association Show is held in May every year. In 2020 it’s taking place at McCormick Place® in Chicago, IL over May 16 to 19. This is one of the country’s premier restaurant and food-focused events, where new ideas, technology, and products are launched every year.
Why Exhibit at the National Restaurant Association Show?
This culinary showcase is the place to go to find out what’s new and what’s trending in the restaurant industry. Attendees flock to the show to learn about everything from new innovations in food and beverages to supplies and equipment to new industry technology.
In 2019 the show celebrated its 100th year, and while it’s now a century old, it shows no signs of slowing down. More than 700,000 square feet of exhibit space, 42,000 attendees, and 2,300 exhibitors made it the biggest show yet. Total registration, including attendees and exhibitors, was over 65,000.
This huge event continues to grow every year. It was announced that in 2020, the show will add a fourth exhibit hall to expand the ever-growing exhibitor tally. Both the National Restaurant Association Show and the industries it supports are busy growing. That means it’s a great place for exhibitors to kickstart a new phase of growth for themselves.
Speakers and Sessions: The Lineup for 2020 Will Attract Big Attendance Numbers
The 2020 lineup hasn’t been released, but it’s sure to be packed with fascinating exhibits, informative education sessions, and great speakers. In 2019, the lineup of speakers, sessions, and experiences included:
- Culinary experience center and global food expo
- Startup Alley – An exhibition hall dedicated to startups and emerging companies
- Awards showcases – Food and Beverage (FABI) Awards and Kitchen Innovation Awards
- Innovation hub and tech pavilion, showcasing new industry technology and ideas
- World culinary showcase – Culinary and mixology demos by noted celebrity chefs, culinary experts, and spirit masters including Rick Bayless, Abra Berens, Anjula Devi, James Tagg, Gerry Garvin, and Diana Davila
- Education sessions – Hiring and Retention, Culinary Insights, Marketing Matters, Technology and Innovation, and Beverage/Alcohol
Who Attends the NRA Show?
The show is open to professionals in the food service, hospitality, and restaurant industries. A very wide range of people show up at this event including:
- Representatives from 92 of the top 100 restaurant brands
- Management and executive-level reps from top restaurant, hospitality, and food service brands
- Restaurant owners and operators, including franchise owners
- Retail food service professionals
- Equipment dealers
- Food distributors
- Employees with a variety of job descriptions, including QA, purchasing, operations, IT, and franchise development
The 2019 event saw an increase in attendee numbers from all over the map. All 50 states were well-represented, along with more than 100 other countries. Key markets such as China, Japan, and Colombia all showed significant growth.
How to Focus Your Exhibit Design
In a highly crowded industry—and exhibition hall—it’s hard to stand out and make your mark. A great booth is capable of capturing the attention of passers-by, but when the room is so busy, how does it do that?
Engaging visuals with bold lighting and graphical displays certainly help. But you also have to highlight why—out of the 4,000-plus exhibits at the show—yours is worth paying attention to.
Play Up Your Unique Selling Point
At a show this large, well-established, and prestigious, there are plenty of big-name exhibitors—with big budgets to match. If you’re exhibiting as a smaller start-up or business at the NRA show, it’s hard to compete with that.
Rather than worry about what the big brands are doing, focus on what makes your own brand special. Every business has a unique selling point. Figure out what yours is, and then make sure it shines through in your exhibit, your product demonstrations, your booth staff, and everything else you do at the show.
Develop a Great Product Demonstration
In a hands-on industry, attendees want to see how they can use the products you’re offering. Give them what they want by creating a product demonstration that really showcases your products. And make sure that your demo speaks to who your audience is at this specific show. Figure out what they want, then craft a demo that shows how your products deliver.
An engaging and interesting demo helps in another way too: It pulls in foot traffic. If your booth looks interesting to outsiders, they’ll want to get in on the action.
Engage the Senses
Don’t forget that food is tactile and that it’s most enjoyable when it engages the senses! Your trade show exhibit should reflect that. Even if your products or services are something other than food itself, think up some ways to add sensory experiences to your booth. They make your display more interesting and help you showcase what makes your products unique and desirable.
Don’t Miss This Big Opportunity!
A huge show like NRA represents a major opportunity to get your products before a whole new set of potential clients and customers. If the hospitality, food service, or restaurant business are among your client base, this is a trade show that’s not to be missed.
If you decide to exhibit at the National Restaurant Association Show, consider working with an exhibit company that has extensive experience. When you attend a show this big, your exhibit needs to be capable of commanding attention—choose professionals who can help you make it all work!