CHICAGO — Celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show at McCormick Place provided a high-energy forum where tens of thousands restaurant and hospitality operators from around the world connected with exhibiting companies to boost business.
“NRA Show 2009 was a great success, and in many ways an industry tipping point,” says Lorna Donatone, convention chair for NRA Show 2009 and the president of school services at Sodexo. “We have received incredibly positive feedback from both exhibiting companies and attendees from around the world.”
NRA Show 2009, and the International Wine, Spirits & Beer Event that ran concurrently, drew 54,000 industry professionals, a much smaller attendance than for previous shows.
“Now more than ever is the time to get busy on our business,” says David Starr, operating vice president of restaurants for Bloomingdale’s. “At this point, it’s all about the competition and staying ahead; and this is a great resource.”
“Look at this, it’s great!” says Ming Tsai, chef/owner of Blue Ginger in Wellesley, Mass. “Even in this recession, this place is doing well. It’s good to see this many people at this year’s NRA Show.”
The reported spread of the H1N1 influenza virus remains an important issue for the restaurant and hospitality industry, and the NRA partnered with Ecolab to create an industry response program.
A pre-NRA Show webinar kicked off the program, then a 90-minute educational seminar followed at the show itself.
The NRA sponsored a “Pandemic Preparedness” booth staffed by experts, including those from Ecolab. The booth offered training videos that encouraged proper hand hygiene, hard-surface cleaning and other preventive measures that restaurants can take for all types of public health situations.
Hand sanitizing stations provided by Ecolab were scattered throughout the exhibit floor.
MORE TO NRA THAN JUST FOOD
While the vast majority of the exhibit floor featured booths focusing on dining and food preparation, there were exhibitors promoting their laundry equipment, bedding, napery, uniforms, facility services and more.
Pellerin Milnor Co., sharing a booth with Chicago Dryer Co. (Chicago®), introduced a washer-extractor model aimed at providing greater water conservation for on-premise laundries.
Standard on Milnor’s V-Series washers, the RinSave water conservation technology eliminates up to two high-level rinses and up to six minutes in the wash formula, according to Keith Quarles, regional sales manager.
“The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” Quarles says. “Operators are looking for ways to maintain quality but also reduce operating costs.”
Chicago® displayed its Comet Executive, a compact flatwork finisher available for use in a wide variety of restaurant, club and banquet operations.
Electrolux Professional debuted a new laundry line. Its new Super Spin-200G solid mount, front-load washers are designed to ensure safe and simple operations, with large door openings, easy-to-use control panels and low noise levels.
Cintas Corp. demonstrated its ability to provide a “one-stop shop” for all of a restaurant’s cleaning and safety needs.
At the heart of its booth was a restroom mockup, which the company used to demonstrate its Sanis Ultraclean restroom cleaning service. It’s a deep-cleaning, high-pressure washer and chemical injection system that removes buildup, leaving a sanitized restroom that looks and smells clean, Cintas says.
“Many restaurants have sustained some financial impact from the recession,” says David Mesko, senior director of marketing and strategy, Cintas. “To offset some of this loss, owners and operators are streamlining procurement processes and opting for vendors who can provide several solutions for their business. This strategy can help restaurants reduce labor and product costs while maintaining optimal service levels.”
Standard Textile Co. promoted its full line of bedding and napery products, with an eye on products that shorten processing and bed makeup time.
On display was a bed outfitted with Standard’s newest addition, a top cover with an integrated bed scarf in a multicolored pattern called “Juicy Fruit.” Many hotels use a white bed cover, then lay a colorful bed scarf near the foot of the bed.
“Now they don’t have to buy the extra scarf,” explains Jeff Frey, the company’s vice president of hospitality, program development. “It saves time in bed makeup. The care is exactly the same. You can use the same laundry formula.”
Other time-saving features of the company’s bedding are balanced hems and center lock labels, which Frey says help housekeepers take the guesswork out of aligning sheets.
Greg Grunberg, a star of the NBC TV series Heroes, attended the show to promote Yowza!!, a free application for iPhone and iPod touch that displays touch-screen promotional offers from retailers, service businesses and restaurants located in the user’s area.
Companies that utilize Yowza!! have the ability to change offers “on the fly,” says Grunberg, who developed the mobile-couponing application with two other men.
“They’re all looking for ways to reach people digitally,” he adds, saying the NRA Show gave him the opportunity to “meet all the right people” in advance of a full product rollout coming soon.