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NRA Show Promises Something For Every Restaurateur

Fortunately the dinosaur and the sign in front of the National Restaurant Show were meant for a product and not the restaurant industry.

Being greeted by an oddly realistic dinosaur—if you ignored his semi-hidden jean-clad legs—was just one of the treats in store for visitors to the National Restaurant Show in Chicago the extended weekend of May 18-21. 

Don’t make the mistake we did by arriving at the starting time on Day 1. There wasn’t a lot of assistance or signage to get people in the right line of pre-registered and registering-on-site folks, and the only line was long and slow moving. Once we got inside, however, there was enough square-footage to spread us all out nicely. No long lines at the free Coke and Pepsi stations or for the abundant samples. However, the aisles were crowded and the level of buzz high, which are good signs for the industry. 

One of the reasons to attend is to check out what’s new. Equipment and smallwares are always well represented, but this year the technology pavilion was thick with back-of-the-house tech providers. Not everything was in one place, for instance, smart glasses from Google that allowed hands-free training were mixed in with display cases filled with desserts and a serving robot was in the international section. All the better to get people engaged.

There were plenty of cutting-edge things to see, such as that robot server, a conveyor-style delivery that molds a lid on a coffee or prepares a poke bowl, and edible spoons (370 calories for 10 spoons). Environmentally friendly packaging was popular, as well as large booths touting the third-party delivery services of UberEats and Postmates, in separate pavilions. Plant-based meats were also popular. 

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture helped fund and promote the Minnesota Pavilion at the show. Featured in the pavilion were 16 companies.

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