Blog / June 3, 2019
2019 NRA Show Recap: What Restaurant Industry Trends Are Heating Up
This year, over 45,000 people streamed into McCormick Place in Chicago to explore the latest and greatest restaurant and foodservice industry trends — from equipment and supplies to food & beverage and technology — during the 100th anniversary of the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show. And with over 2,300 exhibitors across more than 900 product categories, there was a lot of ground to cover during the four days of the show. Read on for a recap of some of the big trends we saw at NRA Show this year.
Voice Technology Comes To RestaurantsAllison Page on stage for NRA Show’s SuperSession | Credit: Winsight During the “Future of Restaurants” SuperSession on Monday, May 20, SevenRooms’ Chief Product Officer and Co-Founder Allison Page debuted the first Amazon Alexa skill for restaurant operators — enabling more proactive in-service experiences using data. From ‘Alexa, who’s sitting at Table 7?’ and ‘Alexa, how are we doing tonight?’ to ‘Alexa, comp champagne for Alex Snow,’ this in-service tool uses voice commands to make technology invisible, enabling operators to access important guest data without having to look at a device. The applications of this technology are limited only by the sound of your voice, giving operators the tools they need to personalize the guest experience while on the go, and using that data to drive loyalty for years to come. As Allison said during the SuperSession, “Technology, the very thing we are afraid of sitting between us and our guests, might be the very thing that brings us closer together.” Check out the live demo here.
Food Safety Takes CenterstagePathSpots hand scanner | Credit: PathSpot In a study, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service stated that handwashing is done improperly 97% of the time. And in a time where food safety issues are being talked about more than ever — how can anyone forget Chipotle’s bacteria-borne struggles — this issue was front and center at NRA Show this year. Enter PathSpot, a hand scanner that instantly detects invisible signs of bacteria and viruses that cause foodborne illness. The concept is simple, with employees simply placing their hands below the scanner, and within seconds, being told whether they or not they have bacteria — like E.coli, Listeria, Salmonella or Norovirus — on their hands. Intended to be used as a way to train employees on proper food safety practices, we can expect this technology to get rolled out in restaurants across the U.S. in the near future.
Sustainable is the Name of the GameTomato-based Ahimi ‘tuna’ | Credit: Ocean Hugger Foods From noodles made from Alaska Pollock and ‘bleeding’ plant-based burgers, to ‘tuna’ created from tomatoes, sustainable protein-alternatives were popular at this year’s show. And while sustainable plant-based products like these are ultimately better for the environment, they can also be a big boost on a restaurants bottom line. The diners of today care about the environment, and want their favorite restaurants to incorporate sustainable food practices into their businesses. Incorporating sustainable products into your business can not only lead to more visits in the future, but could open up your restaurant to a new audience of diners. We’re already seeing this trend take off at restaurants around NYC, and it is quickly expanding nationwide. But these foods weren’t the only sustainable products debuted at NRA Show. This year, more brands than ever debuted eco-friendly items — from compostable straws to reusable containers. These included:
- Hay! Straws: In the US alone, 500 million plastic straws are used every day. That’s where Hay! Straws come in, offering a biodegradable drinking straw made from natural wheat, helping to cut down the number of straws that make their way into landfills.
- OZZI: OZZI eliminates traditional disposable take-out containers by utilizing technology that encourages consumers to return food containers (or pay a fee). These reusable containers eliminate the cost of paper or plastic products, with the added benefit of helping to reduce carbon footprint.