CHICAGO — The National Restaurant Association Show, produced by Winsight LLC and sponsored by the National Restaurant Association, returned to Chicago’s McCormick Place May 20-23 to unite the food service industry. There were four days of showcasing products and services, educating and networking with industry colleagues.
Spanning more than 661,000 net square feet (nsf), the 2023 National Restaurant Association Show experienced 12% growth in nsf over the 2022 edition.
Also surging from 2022, the number of first-time exhibitors increased 61%, with 800 companies making their debut at the show. The sales team focused on generating new business by using digital marketing focused on trends, including technology and innovation within the industry. Another marketing approach focused on increasing the cost per square foot to push conversions and offering a Cyber Monday deal for attendees, which drove significant growth.
“Our exhibitors have solutions that can help meet the ever-expanding list of needs and issues facing the industry today, and they know the connections made at the Restaurant Show are stronger than ones made anywhere else. And just as the 2023 show grew larger than the 2022 show, the 2024 show is shaping up to continue that trend. Our 2023 exhibitors were given the chance to book a booth for next year, and we re-signed over 94% of our 2023 exhibit space for the 2024 show; an all-time high retention rate,” Mike Lindahl, Director of Sales, Winsight, said.
Also outpacing 2022, international attendance was 15% higher in 2023 with professionals from more than 112 countries in attendance, and of the more than 2,100 exhibitors, more than 280 were international. According to Winsight, international attendance relative to overall attendance was the highest percentage since the data has been recorded.
International attendees can use the U.S. Commercial Service, The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture or local delegations for services to help register and attend the show. Belonging to a delegation also provides visa application support, networking opportunities and other benefits, thus incentivizing joining one. The delegation program brought together 29 delegations, representing 35% of all international attendees, for the 2023 edition.
To combat challenges of long visa wait times, Winsight launched the first email about the show in January and identified growth opportunities in other countries to make up for the loss of attendance from those with longer wait times.
On the DEI front, the 2023 edition of the show focused on a wide range of educational topics and speakers. This year, a number of accessibility and inclusion resources were available as well, including a gathering for sober industry professionals, prayer rooms, American Sign Language interpreters and ADA shuttle service.
“The energy at the Restaurant Show this year was palpable,” Lisa Malikow, SVP Event Operations and Programming at Winsight, said. “From the time we opened and through the last day of the show, business was getting done and you could tell that attendees and exhibitors were focused on the future of food service. But perhaps the best part was being able to see all the smiles, handshakes, laughter and connections being made.”
The next National Restaurant Association Show will take place May 18-21, 2024, at McCormick Place in Chicago.
Reach Lisa Malikow at firstname.lastname@example.org