Sous vide, energy efficiency took center stage for the foodservice equipment community during the 2012 NRA Show.

Well, another NRA Show has come and gone. In some respects, this show was a little more interesting than recent versions due in part to the fact that it took place several weeks earlier than normal so Chicago could host the NATO Summit.

Another element that made this show seem different from others was the fact that the NRA rearranged the exhibition floor, which meant many longtime exhibitors hung out their shingles in new locations this year. For me this not only made the show seem new but it also had a disorienting affect in that I could not use my usual landmarks to help navigate the endless sea of grazers en route to my next appointment.

I know the NRA was concerned about how the earlier than usual timing of the event would impact participation among exhibitors and attendees. But in light of the fact that the association has issued two releases touting strong attendance and exhibitor participation the NRA seemingly did a good job of addressing those potential challenges. And I, for one, hope the apparent success of this past show will convince the NRA to explore having it earlier in the month moving forward.

In addition to these changes, there were some interesting developments from the foodservice equipment and supplies community worth sharing. Here are a few observations from my perspective.

Sous Vide Makes a Splash: Although far from a new idea, it seems as if the foodservice industry is looking at sous vide with fresh eyes. Exhibitors were displaying everything from mini baths to bags to flavor packets for this technology. I don't know that I have ever had more discussions about sous vide at one event. Clearly the factories are heading in this direction in response to customer demand so it will be interesting to see how quickly operators start implementing sous vide.

Energy-Efficient Foodservice Equipment: While not an official point of emphasis at the show, most every foodservice equipment manufacturer I spoke with had an energy efficient message they were touting. From new controls to monitoring capabilities to technology that uses less electricity and gas, conservation was among the top features and benefits touted by some factories.

Dispensing Disposables and Paper: It was interesting to see the proliferation of devices that dispense plastic forks or knives and paper products. What I like about these devices is that it helps operators control disposable costs by making it more challenging for customers to grab more than one fork or napkin at a time. And instead of having customers reach into a box or bin of spoons, these devices dispense them one at a time, which means they touch only what they take and that can lead to a more sanitary operation.

Lack of Understanding about Energy Star and LEED: The terms Energy Star and LEED are somewhat ubiquitous parts of the green movement. And, yes, they do have a place in foodservice. In talking with professionals from various industry segments there still seems to be a lack of understanding about what's happening with Energy Star for foodservice equipment and the evolution of LEED for foodservice operations. The good news is that there's lots happening in these areas to try to make Energy Star and LEED more valuable to the foodservice industry. For an update, consider tuning into our June 26 webcast on Energy Star and LEED.