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The NRA Show is ground zero for the restaurant industry. Between May 5 and May 8, 58,000 exhibitors, media, restaurateurs, and industry allies are descending on Chicago to learn trends, see what’s new, and connect with their peers. Here’s what’s new in the restaurant world.
The Future is Here
If present trends continue, the quick serves of tomorrow will rely more and more on mechanization. At the booth for distributor J.C. Uni-Tec And Associates, the future is already here. A conveyor belt from Loop System Co. LTD carries small plates of sushi around in a circle so customers can pick and choose what they’d like to eat as the dishes move in front of them. Suzumo has mechanized time-consuming processes with an automatic rice mixer, rice sheeter, and sushi roll cutter. Up-and-coming quick serve u-sushi already uses Suzumo products, and other quick serves may soon follow suit.
There’s no sweeter word in the English language than “free.” At least that’s the opinion of David Robertson, sales support manager for Harbortouch. Harbortouch is a POS system that comes free up front.
The POS package, which includes a receipt printer, cash drawer, terminal, programming, and an hour of on-site training along with a warranty and free tech support, costs $59 a month and requires a five-year commitment. But with no up-front costs, it’s a lot easier for start-ups (not to mention their financiers) to swallow. And at the end of the subscription period operators own the system free and clear.
“Yes, you’re paying $59 a month, but guess what?” Robertson says. “There's ownership in your equipment.”
When attendees show up at the booth for Watchfire Signs, they’ll see an unusual site: a glowing sign completely submerged in an aquarium. That’s because the front portion of Watchfire’s LED signs are coated with soft epoxy front and back, so they’re completely protected from water damage. But these signs aren’t just good in rain and snow—they’re also good for sales.
Paul Southard, director of national accounts for Watchfire, says that most restaurants that install one of the signs can see a sales increase of between 5–15 percent. For a restaurant that does a million dollars a year and makes a 30 percent profit, a 10 percent increase in sales would mean a 100 percent return of investment on a $30,000 sign in one year. With numbers like that, it’s no wonder that both McDonald’s and Dairy Queen use Watchfire LED signs. The company has more than 40,000 in the field after it started in 1998.
By Robert Lillegard