Special Report | May 2014

2014 NRA Show Recap

The top news from the industry’s biggest event.

Health Continues to Drive Menu Innovation

Health continues to be the driving trend for menu development and product innovation in the limited-service restaurant space—and that’s not changing any time soon.

At this year’s National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show, Jane Grote Abell, founder and chairman of Donatos Pizza; Susan Shields, CIO of Jamba Juice; and Greg Dollarhyde, CEO of Veggie Grill, joined moderator Aaron Noveshen, president of The Culinary Edge, in a discussion on winning consumers through menu innovation.

NRA to Expand Show Next Year

The National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) annual Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show came to a close Tuesday, and already attendees have something to look forward to: Next year, the Show will be expanded to a fourth exhibit hall, based on the strength of this year’s event.

The additional exhibit space will be located in the Lakeside Pavilion at the huge McCormick Place convention center, next to this year’s new digs for the companion International Wine, Spirits & Beer Event (IWSB).

Variety, Innovation in Beverage Trends

Just as chefs are expected to be creative with their culinary efforts, operators also must be innovative when it comes to their beverage choices—both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.

“Find something you can do” to be unique in your beverage program, said Glenn Schmitt, president of MarkeTeam Inc., a Mission Viejo, California-based sales promotion firm serving the food and beverage industry. The buzz that creates draws in new guests, he said.

NRA Keynoter Johnson Shares His Magic Touch

Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s life has been about defying the odds. Over the last two decades, Johnson has become one of the globe’s most powerful African-American businessmen, a devoted philanthropist, and a champion for urban America as the head of Magic Johnson Enterprises, a diverse conglomerate that touches a variety of industries, including sports, entertainment, retail, and foodservice.

“I've been defying the odds for a long time,” Johnson told a capacity crowd during his keynote address at the 95th Annual National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show in Chicago on May 18.

Exhibitors Show Off Local, Alternative Foods

There’s nothing unusual anymore about a chef or restaurant having a garden to provide herbs and veggies as food and drink ingredients. It’s a hyper-local aspect of the farm-to-table movement and its companion move toward better-for-you ingredients.

One Chicago project has expanded on that movement by creating a half-acre rooftop garden at McCormick Place West, part of the massive convention center that hosted the annual National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show.

Fast Casual is Talk of the Town

Fast casual continues to be the hottest segment of the restaurant industry, so there’s no surprise that it’s drawing plenty of attention during the National Restaurant Association’s annual Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show.

“Although there are pockets of growth in the larger restaurant segments, fast casual continues to be a growth engine in terms of units, sales, and appeal,” says Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Chicago market research firm Technomic.