Over the years I’ve associated Bob Marley with a lot of things. Coffee was not among them.
Every year at this time in May, you can find a who’s who of the restaurant trade all gathered in one place. Chicago Illinois. More specifically, McCormick Place. That’s the site of the National Restaurant Association’s annual restaurant show.
If you own a restaurant and are looking for equipment, food or industry technology, you can find it here. Not only can you find it here, but, it will chase you down a showroom aisle waving a free sample at you.
Yesterday, I had a chance for an insiders view of what you will soon be experiencing at your favorite place to dine. As I sampled my way through thousands of vendors one thing became crystal clear. If you didn’t come with a game plan to navigate your day, you’ve lost before you’ve even downed that first slice of mini pizza.
Let’s take a look at some of what the show had to offer.
Yes, bacon is still hot. Our fascination with the smoky, salty and sweet meat continues. There were lots of venders with smoked products, but, bacon still out shines them all (as you can easily see by the soft glow of the bacon beacon).
If you can’t find amazing food displays here then something is very wrong. Sid Wainer and Sons really pulled out all the stops at their booth. A recreation of an actual food specialty store. Pretty great.
Food trucks have been a culinary craze for a while now. There was even a TV reality show last year (once that happens, it’s officially a craze). It looks like this mobile food fad isn’t going away any time soon. And, that’s OK with me. This is one food trend I hope sticks around past the usual flame out point.
As you would imagine there was a lot of food to sample. I mean a lot! Lines for some of the more popular places like Nathan’s, Dietz & Watson, Vienna and Idahoan Foods snaked down the aisle or around the booth.
Speaking of lines, Coca Cola had plenty of them. Check out their latest drink dispensing machine. 125 different flavors out of one machine! Pretty amazing. The unit holds 25 concentrated drink cartridges that when mixed in proper proportions, makes over one hundred Coca Cola product flavors. As you would imagine, all the standard Coke brands are represented. So, calm down, no one is going to take away your plain old boring Diet Coke.
Bob Marley’s son, Rohan, has started a coffee company. Who would have ever thought that? They use Blue Mountain coffee beans for their product and it’s surprisingly good. Bob’s daughter, Karen, was on hand the day I was there to talk up the product and sign a few autographs. Sure it’s a crowed marketplace, but, they have a story that might set them apart.
As you would imagine, there was tons of tech. From new point of sale systems, to customer paging to high tech valet systems. Groupon had a nice presence, as did Google and Living Social. All trying to demonstrate why their platform brings people in the door of your restaurant.
After six hours of floor walking, I was done. I had managed to cover most of the two giant show floors. I was tired and full, but, satisfied that I had gotten a pretty good look at what’s coming straight to your local eatery. I was ready to head out, complete with a ten pound bag of handouts to sort though later.
The National Restaurant Show really is a complete look at the industry. Around every corner of this show is a new food to sample. And, it’s your job to try most of it. I mean, it is in the name of “journalism” and I wouldn’t want to let you down.