The 95th annual National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show and the co-located 7th annual International Wine, Spirits & Beer Event (IWSB), recently held in Chicago, posted positive growth in both attendee and exhibitor numbers for the third year in a row.

The NRA Show and IWSB 2014 brought operators, dealers, distributors, experts, manufacturers, and suppliers together to address some of the most timely and relevant topics in the industry including the effects of entrepreneurship, technology, and social responsibility on the industry’s future, sustainability, health and nutrition, building an effective and profitable bar program, menu development and special dietary needs, and more.

2014 marks the third consecutive year of registration growth. After posting an increase in both 2012 and 2013, NRA Show/IWSB grew by an additional 2 percent in 2014, bringing registration to 63,876 – a total growth of 10.5 percent since 2011.

Registrants hailed from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. The Lodging category saw the largest increase in registrants, posting 12.9 percent growth over 2013. Dealer/Distributor and Press registration grew by 9 percent and 8.5 percent, respectively.

On the exhibitor side, total square footage grew by 5.7 percent and number of exhibiting companies grew by 4.3 percent, resulting in totals of 612,170 and 2,168, respectively. Total growth in exhibit space over the past three years was 18.8 percent and total growth in exhibiting companies over that time period was 11.9 percent. To accommodate ongoing demand, NRA Show will expand into the Lakeside Center in 2015, joining the International Wine, Spirits & Beer Event in the East Building of McCormick Place.

“The energy and excitement at this year’s NRA Show and IWSB could be strongly felt at every venue – and reflected the ongoing optimism among restaurant and hospitality professionals,” says Sam Facchini, 2014 NRA convention chair and co-founder/co-owner of Metro Pizza. “Our industry is poised for another year of growth, and operators came out in full force to find the products, services, information and contacts that will help them capitalize on increased consumer spending in the next year.”

The 2014 show featured a number of new features and programming, including a brand-new on-floor, hands-on interactive workshop called Foodamental Studio. Participants in Foodamental Studio got to roll up their sleeves and try their hand as culinary trends and techniques including pickling, food photography, butchery, and chocolate sculpture. In addition, NRA Show attendees had the opportunity to tour the largest rooftop garden in the Midwest and to go off-site for a guided tour of Eataly in downtown Chicago.  IWSB 2014 attendees were able to explore two new pavilions this year – Craftique, featuring limited-production craft and boutique wines, spirits and beers, and Bar Necessities, showcasing products including mixers, glassware, and ice.

Featured sessions at NRA Show and IWSB 2014 included:

The State of our Industry address by Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association. The session, titled “The Future of the American Dream,” included a dialogue between Sweeney and Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, Groupon CEO Eric Lefkofsky, and Google head of industry for restaurants Jennifer Wesley.

Keynote address by Earvin “Magic” Johnson, where Johnson discussed the importance of customer understanding and engagement.

"The Current State of Nutrition in the Restaurant Industry” session featuring representatives from Yum! Brands, Inc., Darden, McDonald’s Corporation, The Center for Science in the Public Interest, and the International Food Information Council.

“Restaurateurs to Watch” with chef/restaurateur Rick Bayless; co-founder of Boca Restaurant Group Kevin Boehm; president and CEO of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises Kevin Brown; restaurateur Rohini Dey, and restaurateur Nick Kokonas.

“Lessons from Leaders in Fast Casual” featuring representatives from Firehouse of America, LLC, LJR Hospitality Ventures, Rubio’s Restaurants, Inc., and WOW BAO-Lettuce Entertain You.

“The Great Martini Debate” with “The Modern Mixologist,” Tony Abou-Ganim.

“Hot Trends for Increased Beverage Sales” featuring representatives from  MarkeTeam, Inc., Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, CraftWorks Restaurants & Breweries, Inc., and Royal Caribbean International.

In addition, the National Restaurant Association hosted its inaugural Restaurant Finance Summit during NRA Show 2014 on Monday, May 19th. The Summit opened with a Keynote luncheon presentation by Jonathan Tisch, chairman of Loews Hotels and Resorts and featured sessions with those in the financial community.

Finally, during NRA Show and IWSB, the National Restaurant Association announced the winners of the annual Operator Innovations Awards and crowned the 2014 Star of the Barmixology champion.

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