Food Industry Hungry for First National Restaurant Association Show Since Pandemic

Marlene Goldman, Executive Editor
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CHICAGO — The National Restaurant Association Show is making its return to McCormick Place in Chicago from May 21-24 for the first time in three years. The show brings together more restaurant and hospitality buyers and equipment manufacturers than any other industry event.

Thousands of registrants were still signing up just days before the show, according to Tom Cindric, President of Winsight Exhibitions, which owns and operates the show. Though the numbers are not quite at pre-pandemic levels, the enthusiasm is drawing between 1,700 and 1,800 exhibitors and filling 600,000 square feet of space.

“There is a lot of pent-up demand,” Cindric said. “We haven’t had a show in three years, and the pandemic has really hammered the service industry. It’s been a tough time. A lot of companies and operators and businesses have had to be creative, and they have had to deal with supply chain issues and labor issues during the pandemic, as well.”

The show floor will feature more than 900 product categories — including food, beverage, equipment, technology and tableware. There are also more than 500 new exhibitors showcasing their products.

“A third of the show is brand-new companies,” Cindric said. “A lot of operators are looking forward to new products, solutions and equipment. They can meet a lot of new people who can meet their needs, so that’s what we’re really excited about.”

Other highlights this year include the largest Kitchen Innovations Showroom in the event’s more than 100-year history, with products focusing on everything from automation and efficiency to sustainability and waste solutions.

Attendees will have the opportunity to watch demos  from chefs, culinary leaders, mixologists and beverage experts including two new experiences — The Culinary Experience and The Beverage Room— where masters will demonstrate their techniques and showcase their cutting-edge crafts.

“The whole show has been reimagined – the look and feel and activations,” Cindric said. “There are also paid workshops for the first time that have sold out. Industry people want to get together and learn. They have challenges. They are looking for solutions to things they need.”

The 2022 education program features almost 100 sessions and workshops focused on seven education tracks — Culinary Insights, Operations Solutions, Technology Strategies, The New Consumer, Trends in Adult Beverage, Wellness, and Workforce Recruitment and Development. Some sessions target recent topics, such as delivery, supply chain and labor issues, according to Cindric.

Cindric noted the show is also a boost for the host city of Chicago.

“The city is happy for us to be here. They love this show,” he said. “This show exemplifies what the city of Chicago is about—hospitality, restaurants, food, so when this show comes to town, the city thrives.”

This year, the National Restaurant Association Show is supporting the ongoing humanitarian efforts of World Central Kitchen’s Chefs for Ukraine program. The show’s goal is to raise $50,000 to support the efforts of providing fresh meals to Ukrainian families. Donations can be made at donate.wck.org/2022restaurantshow.

The Show To Go mobile app is a new offering for attendees to help navigate the show.

Last-minute registration is available on the show’s website.

Reach Tom Cindric at (312) 506-5409 or tcindric@winsightmedia.com