Special Report | May 2014 | By Marlee Murphy

2014 NRA Show Guide

Everything you need to know to prepare for the industry’s biggest event.

The annual NRA show gives quick service and fast casual operators helpful advice
National Restaurant Association
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The National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) annual Show is one of the restaurant industry’s must-attend events. With thousands of company booths to explore, educational sessions hosted by industry experts, and plenty of networking to be done at Chicago’s finest restaurants, there’s no shortage of things to do and see during your four days in the Windy City.

We’ve put together our annual NRA Show preview to help you strategize your time in Chicago and make the most of the event, held May 17–20 at McCormick Place. Stop by QSR’s Booth! #5338

NRA Education Session Schedule

The education sessions at the NRA Show offer a great opportunity to learn from experts about all of the hot-button issues affecting the industry. Here are several we think would be most worth your time.

Saturday, May 17

10 a.m.

NRA’s Fast-Casual Industry Council Presents: Lessons from Leaders 2.0

Top executives discuss lessons, challenges, and successes they have experienced in the rapidly growing fast-casual sector. Hear from CEOs like Don Fox of Firehouse Subs and Marc Simon of Rubio’s Restaurants. ROOM S404abc

The Art and Science of Capturing the Opportunity Within the Diverse Millennial Population

The diversity among Millennials has translated to an eclectic palate and desire for authenticity that strongly influence their food and dining preferences. Nielsen executive John Torres discusses this generation’s buying behaviors and how to engage them both online and off. ROOM S402a

11:30 a.m.

One Slice at a Time: What the Pizza Industry Can Teach You

CEO Rick Wolf of Papa Gino’s and president Eric Greenwald of Grimaldi’s Pizzeria discuss growth strategies and current trends within the popular pizza industry. ROOM S403

1:30 p.m.

Marketing Strategies for Your Restaurant Brand

Some strategies are better than others at marketing your quick serve for success. The NRA’s Marketing Executive Group (MEG) members share how they succeed at everything from social media to brand evolution. ROOM S404abc

Happier Employees, Appreciated Guests: Training for Diversity and Inclusion Builds Business

With more generations working, growing international tourism, and issues such as marriage equality and immigration making headlines, diversity and inclusion training in the quick-service industry has never been more important. Learn how to find employees in this new market and how they prepare the staff to better connect with a diverse set of consumers.ROOM S402a

2 p.m.

Exploring Technology Industry Trends with Hudson Riehle

A growing crop of technology tools and trends can set your quick-service concept apart from competition. NRA executive Hudson Riehle shares how technology integration can satisfy consumer demand for convenience. BOOTH 5575

“Walk the Floor” with Food News Media!

In conjunction with Food News Media’s Healthy, Active Lifestyle campaign and our upcoming HALO Awards, put your best foot forward by participating in our contest during the 2014 NRA Show. While on the floor, be sure to stop by the Food News Media booth, No. 5338, to pick up one of our “Walk the Floor” pedometers and track the number of steps you take in the course of the Show.

How many steps will you take? Tweet your experience and number of steps to @HALO4CHANGE, along with the hashtag #walkthefloor, to see how you stack up against other NRA attendees. The participant with the most steps over the course of the show will win a Fitbit or Vivobit. Whether motivated by our healthy lifestyle theme or competitive spirit (or maybe by those extra calories put on by delicious Chicago dining!), we welcome your involvement.

The “Walk the Floor” campaign demonstrates Food News Media’s continued commitment to promoting Healthy, Active Lifestyles. This campaign is part of a much larger initiative called the HALO Awards, which promote a Healthy, Active Lifestyle Objective. For years, Food News Media has covered the restaurant industry’s achievements in this area in the pages of QSR and FSR magazines. In 2014, we decided to formalize this coverage with the HALO Awards, which will honor restaurant chains making genuinely positive contributions, through both menu and messaging, to a Healthy, Active Lifestyle for consumers.

Next: Sunday, May 18

 

NRA Education Session Schedule

Sunday, May 18

10 a.m.

Create A Healthier Plate for Your Menu

Consumers are demanding nutritious quick-service menu offerings. Learn the key to creating a healthy menu using whole grains, fruits, and vegetables while keeping your costs down. ROOM S402a

11:30 a.m.

From Fine to Fast: High-Profile Chefs Make Their Mark on Fast Casual

Restaurateurs Rick Bayless and Alfredo Sandoval discuss why the fast-casual industry has become such an attractive proposition for fine-dining restaurant operators with QSR editor Sam Oches. ROOM S404abc

Best-Practice Real Estate Disciplines to Realize Your Development Potential

Industry leaders offer practices necessary to fully develop your brand’s or territory’s potential in today’s competitive quick-service market. The discussion includes real estate modeling, broker knowledge, and post-opening review disciplines. ROOM S404d

1:30 p.m.

Eataly: The Green Balancing Act

The Eataly team discusses the importance of sustaining green business practices and the challenges that accompany that commitment. Learn about the LEED certification process, importing versus local sourcing, and reducing your carbon footprint. ROOM S403

Secrets to Winning Mom … and Her Family’s Spending Money

More than 80 percent of families say mom controls most of the money, especially when it comes to food. Learn how to win her over with important strategies including kids’ menus, new food trends, and portion sizes. ROOM S402b

2 p.m.

The In-Store Experience

Studies show new technology drives sales at quick serves and fast casuals. Hear how touch screens, reservation and waiting systems, table-side ordering and payment systems, reality apps, and other new tools can give your business a boost. BOOTH 5575

Next: Monday, May 19

 

NRA Education Session Schedule

Monday, May 19

10 a.m.

When Marketing Met Technology

It’s a new era for marketing operations, one driven primarily by technology. Learn how to integrate new technology into your core marketing functions. BOOTH 5575

11:30 a.m.

Implementing the Health-Care Law in Your Restaurant Operation

Whether or not you’re covered by the employer mandate, your restaurant is covered by the 2010 health-care law. NRA experts share the latest information that employers under the law should know, from new rules to employee questions and more. ROOM S402a

How to Franchise Your Restaurant to Others

Franchising your concept to new restaurateurs can be a long, complex, and highly regulated process. Learn how to begin and what the step-by-step franchising process looks like. Walk away with tips, best practices, and strategies to streamline the franchise transaction. ROOM S404d

1:30 p.m.

Attracting Athlete Investors to Your Restaurant or Franchise

As investors go, professional athletes are a great fit for quick-service and fast-casual franchises. Hear from former pros on what attracted them to their specific brands, along with strategies to land your own athlete franchisees. ROOM S404d

3 p.m.

Food Safety: Everyone’s Job

Few things are more damaging to a restaurant’s reputation than a disparaging review based on food-safety violations, much less a foodborne illness outbreak or severe allergic reaction. Learn how to reduce your risk. ROOM S402b

Menus 2014: Turning Trends Into Money Makers

Get timely updates on major trends, best-in-class menus, changing consumer demands, and more. Learn which trends are sizzling, which fads are fizzling, and how to create menu items that score with consumers. ROOM S404abc

Next: Tuesday, May 20

 

NRA Education Session Schedule

Tuesday, May 20

10 a.m.

Post-Millennial Apocalypse? Understanding Generation Connect (Gen C)

Join Arby’s and Orange Leaf Yogurt executives as they define Generation Connect (ages 18 and younger) in terms of size and spending potential, as well as values and beliefs driving purchase behaviors and communications. ROOM S402b

11:30 a.m.

What I Should Know Before I Become a First-Time Restaurant Franchisee or Expand My Existing Network

Jersey Mike’s Subs COO informs attendees of recent changes in the franchise system and discusses how these changes are impacting your franchise operations. ROOM S404d

1 p.m.

Waste Not, Want Not: Solutions for Preventing and Reducing Food Waste

Managing food waste isn’t just about keeping it out of the landfill, but preventing it in the first place. This panel explores food-waste reduction techniques and presents some of the best practices in food-waste reduction. ROOM S403

Next: The Chicago Scene

 

The Chicago Scene

Walking the Show floor can work up an appetite, and if you’ve been before, you know half the fun is trying out new local food and drink hotspots. Here are four restaurants opened since the last NRA Show that are worth checking out.

SideDoor

100 E. Ontario Street

This tavern pairs a more casual concept with a 40-year-old steakhouse, Lawry’s The Prime Rib, within a 110-year-old mansion in River North. An actual side door leads to the restored section of the established prime-rib restaurant, which now features a traditional lounge and dining room.

Ranalli’s

1925 N. Lincoln Avenue

Ranalli’s, a 40-year-old-plus pizza spot on Lincoln Avenue, completed big renovations. The space is now outfitted with multiple flat-screen TVs, two bars, and a table with its own beer taps. There are also 12 wines on tap and an expanded pizza menu.

Pearl Tavern

180 N. Wacker Drive

Pearl Tavern, a seafood eatery and oyster bar, reopened after a facelift inspired by the extravagant 1950s era in Chicago. Pearl Tavern offers a mixture of seafood dishes and old world décor.

Ajida

201 N. Wells Street, Unit C

This Japanese grill focuses on yakitori skewers, fried koshi age mono, ramen, and udon noodles, and is open seven days a week. The restaurant, located in the Loop, offers carryout and dine-in options.

 

Do Some Research!

Chicago is a hotbed of quick-service and fast-casual innovation. Do some research for your own brand by checking out these concepts that either call the Windy City home or have made it a high-priority growth market.

Protein Bar

The Protein Bar is a Chicago-based, fast-casual concept focused on serving customers nutritious foods in an efficient, contemporary environment. The brand prides itself on using only all-natural, non-artificial ingredients and proteins. The Protein Bar offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and has 11 Chicago locations. The menu includes an array of “Bar-ritos,” raw juices, salads, and blended drinks.

Hannah’s Bretzel

This Chicago-based fast casual offers a variety of organic, whole-grain sandwiches. The concept emphasizes green business practices by using only biodegradable packaging and by relying on wind and solar energy. Hannah’s is open throughout the day at each of its five Chicago locations. Exact operating times vary from store to store.

Roti Mediterranean Grill

Roti Mediterranean Grill, a growing fast-casual brand, is committed to serving natural ingredients like organic chickpeas, extra virgin olive oil, salt mined from Utah’s ancient seabeds, and sustainable meats such as Free Bird chicken and True North salmon. The menu features sandwiches, salads, rice plates, and side dishes. Roti operates 19 restaurants, eight of which are in Chicago, where the concept is headquartered.

LYFE Kitchen

419 N. Clark Street

The restaurant, founded by former McDonald’s executives in Palo Alto, California, is known for its healthy, organic cuisine, with every item containing fewer than 600 calories and served within 8–10 minutes. The Chicago space, the first LYFE Kitchen outside California, has 124 seats inside and an additional 34 on the outdoor patio, and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Next: Food News Media at the NRA Show

 

Food News Media at the NRA Show

Our coverage of this year’s NRA Show doesn’t stop with this Guide. Swing by the Food News Media booth, No. 5338, to meet members of the QSR and Food News Media team. And don’t miss our trio of informative panels designed to keep you at the forefront of the most recent, exciting trends in the restaurant industry.

Saturday, May 17

11:30 a.m.

Chefs Changing the World

Panelists: Mindy Segal, chef

FSR magazine editor Connie Gentry talks to restaurateurs about the many ways food impacts society and the opportunities chefs have to enact positive change on a global scale. Chefs like Think Food Group’s José Andrés are working to change the world, from missions to feed the hungry to supply chain engagement and to the inclusion of healthier foods in gourmet menus. Learn how you can become involved in the movement, all while enhancing both personal satisfaction and profit.

Sunday, May 18

11:30 a.m.

From Fine to Fast: High-Profile Chefs Make Their Mark on Fast Casual

Panelists: Rick Bayless, chef; Alfredo Sandoval, partner, Mercadito Hospitality; Jeremy Barlow, founder, Sloco

The fast-casual restaurant industry has exploded as customers increasingly demand high-quality foods at cheaper price points. The segment’s popularity is even luring fine-dining and celebrity chefs with the promise of commercializing better foods and sourcing practices. QSR editor Sam Oches talks to restaurateurs about how this new wave of high-profile chefs is redefining what is possible in a limited-service setting.

Sunday, May 18

12:30 p.m.

How to Take Your Craft Program From Ordinary to Extraordinary: Wine, Spirits, and Beer

Panelists: Paul Tanguay, partner, Mercadito Hospitality; Steve McDonagh, mixologist,The Hearty Boys; Maeve Webster, senior director, Datassential

Join Food News Media associate publisher Greg Sanders as he and a panel of experts discuss one of the top trends in beverages: “craft.” Craft beer, of course, is well known across the U.S., but craft cocktails and craft sodas are also beginning to make their mark. This session examines the trend through data and real-world success stories to help you understand how you can make “craft” work for you.

“Walk the Floor” with Food News Media!

In conjunction with Food News Media’s Healthy, Active Lifestyle campaign and our upcoming HALO Awards, put your best foot forward by participating in our contest during the 2014 NRA Show. While on the floor, be sure to stop by the Food News Media booth, No. 5338, to pick up one of our “Walk the Floor” pedometers and track the number of steps you take in the course of the Show.

How many steps will you take? Tweet your experience and number of steps to @HALO4CHANGE, along with the hashtag #walkthefloor, to see how you stack up against other NRA attendees. The participant with the most steps over the course of the show will win a Fitbit or Vivobit. Whether motivated by our healthy lifestyle theme or competitive spirit (or maybe by those extra calories put on by delicious Chicago dining!), we welcome your involvement.

The “Walk the Floor” campaign demonstrates Food News Media’s continued commitment to promoting Healthy, Active Lifestyles. This campaign is part of a much larger initiative called the HALO Awards, which promote a Healthy, Active Lifestyle Objective. For years, Food News Media has covered the restaurant industry’s achievements in this area in the pages of QSR and FSR magazines. In 2014, we decided to formalize this coverage with the HALO Awards, which will honor restaurant chains making genuinely positive contributions, through both menu and messaging, to a Healthy, Active Lifestyle for consumers.