The 94th annual National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show and 6th annual International Wine, Spirits & Beer Event (IWSB), recently held at Chicago’s McCormick Place on May 18­–21, posted positive growth in both attendee and exhibitor numbers. As the most comprehensive trade show for the foodservice industry, NRA Show 2013 addressed the issues that mattered most to attendees, including sustainability, health care, kids’ nutrition, technology, and more.

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This year’s event attracted more than 62,500 registrants from all 50 states and 100-plus countries, representing a second consecutive year of growth. The Lodging category saw the largest increase in registrants by more than 10 percent. Restaurant/Foodservice, Retail, and Press registration also experienced growth.

On the exhibitor side, the most substantial sign of growth was demonstrated by the opening of a third exhibit hall, North Hall, Level 1. This additional hall housed more than 400 exhibitors and was a hotbed for innovative products from up-and-coming exhibitors and well-known brands alike. With the additional third hall, exhibit space totaled more than 579,000 square feet, a 6.8 percent increase over 2012, with more than 2,100 exhibiting companies, nearly 40 percent of which were new.

“NRA Show 2013 and IWSB reminded us of the fun and excitement found in the restaurant and foodservice industry,” says Jeffrey W. Davis, Convention Chair for NRA Show 2013 and IWSB and CEO of the United States Beef Corporation. “From serendipitous business encounters to educational discoveries and networking opportunities, no other event provides this kind of access to the ‘who’s who’ of industry leaders, celebrities, brands, products, and services. In just four days, industry attendees and operators received a year’s worth of key learnings and industry insights to not only build their business, but also provide solutions to their everyday challenges.”

To continue to serve as the restaurant and hospitality industry’s leading premier international marketplace, the NRA Show 2013 added additional new feature areas and programming such as: the Alternative BiteStyle specialty pavilion for individuals with special dietary needs; free health care consultations from industry leaders at the Health Care Knowledge Center; the action-packed iSculpture competition; the “next big thing” for restaurants—a fully-functioning Hydroponic Garden; the most prestigious line-up of World Culinary Showcase chefs to date; an exclusive, once-in-a-lifetime tour of Rick Bayless’s home garden; a powerful keynote presentation by Starbucks’ Howard Schultz; an uproarious talk with the never-censored chef and culinary personality, Anthony Bourdain; and more.

The International Wine, Spirits & Beer Event (IWSB) was held in conjunction with NRA Show 2013 on May 19 and 20. The event featured hundreds of world-class beverage alcohol brands and labels and continued to gain traction among key audience segments. The Dealer/Distributors category was up nearly 7 percent and the Retail category saw a 40 percent increase. The two days of pours, shakes, and stirs offered insight into the latest beverage alcohol trends and techniques with interactive demonstrations in the Demo Lounges, stations to marry food and drink at the Restaurant Menu Pairing Program, and more.

The following NRA Show 2013 and IWSB prestigious award programs and annual competitions recognized the industry’s brightest thinkers, innovative developments, and most-promising talent: 

Operator Innovations Awards: The second-annual awards recognized the restaurant operators who have found new and better ways to do business. The following winners were selected at the “Destination: Celebration” gala at the Radisson Blu Aqua Chicago, with Kennesaw State University taking home the prestigious Innovator of the Year award. The 2013 Operator Innovations Awards winners are: Ninety Nine Restaurants for Food Safety; United States Air Force for Health & Nutrition; HMSHost for Menu Development; Kennesaw State University for Sustainability; and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts for Technology. Read quotes from all the winners here.

Star of the Bar Mixology Competition: Steve Schneider, principle bartender at New York’s Employees Only, earned the title of the 2013 Star of the Bar and the $5,000 prize. Sponsored by American Harvest Organic Spirit, his “The Dean” cocktail was selected as the winning cocktail by judges corporate mixologist of Sidney Frank Importing Company Todd Richman, and “Master Mixologist” Tony Abou-Ganim and Anthony Bourdain. Schneider is the first New York mixologist to win the competition. Read more about his big win here.

iSculpture Challenge: Mark Johnson, a USPS letter carrier from Wonder Lake, Illinois, and six-time NRA Show ice-carving competitor, won his first title and $2,500 prize this year with his final creation of “Jaguar and Dove in Flight.” Johnson previously won the 2005 Ice Art Championship in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Food & Beverage Product Innovations Awards (FABI) and Kitchen Innovations (KI) Awards: The most progressive, cutting-edge advancements in food and beverage and kitchen equipment were recognized with the FABI and KI award recipients. Both selected by independent panels of esteemed experts representing a variety of industry segments, the award recipients showcased the latest trends and true innovation. The FABI awards highlighted products to satisfy consumer trends of gluten-free, allergen-free, low sodium, and more. The KI Awards offered true innovations to address today’s leading commercial kitchen equipment challenges of energy efficiency and sustainability, online tools for tracking and monitoring, intelligent controls, as well as versatility to conform to diverse restaurant layouts. Read here for the FABI award recipients stories and KI judges’ criteria.

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