Juan Martinez recounts his NRA Show experiences and looks forward to 2015.
Sad but true, the National Restaurant Association's 2014 trade show is done. Chicago once again provided a great background for the visitors and show participants.
I spent quite a bit of time meeting with people and roaming the halls, making sure to see as much of the show as possible. I am sure that most of you that attend the show regularly would agree with me that getting the most of your NRA show experience is part art and part science, with a lot of planning, as I mentioned in my pre–NRA show blog post.
I went to several awards dinners, including FE&S' Dealer of the Year and Industry Awards Gala, which is always a great gathering and the Fast Casual Awards banquet, where a company that I sit on the board of, Giardino Gourmet Salads, won an award for being the #25 best fast-casual concept in the U.S.
The Kitchen Innovation Award winners were also very impressive. As industrial engineers for the foodservice industry, members of our company were naturally drawn to this part of the show floor. It serves as a wonderful showcase of what new innovations the foodservice equipment community has to offer.
The highlight of my NRA show experience was having the opportunity to sit down with the mastermind behind the Kitchen Innovations Awards program, Alan Plassche, and have a frank one-on-one discussion with him.
The passion Alan has for this program comes through loud and clear. Getting to learn more about the submission and judging processes made me realize how disciplined and detailed they are. Furthermore, the commitment of time that the judges provide free of charge to the industry is impressive and commendable. This is a prime example of what it really means to give back to the industry. I can assure you the 24 companies exhibiting in the KI Pavilion have developed concepts that provide a "differentiating proposition" in the equipment and technology arena.
If you did not have the opportunity to pick up the Foodservice Equipment & Supplies special supplement celebrating the tenth anniversary of the KI Awards, check out the digital edition. It is filled with great information on the program, including this year's recipients along with past ones.
If you missed this year's show, you clearly missed a great opportunity to spend time with friends and colleagues and to stay on top of what is happening in the restaurant industry.
But don't despair, before you know it, the calendar will roll over to 2015 and The NAFEM Show will be upon us, followed by the NRA Show. So you will have plenty of opportunities to take action in 2015. Next year's NRA will be even bigger than this year's exhibition, as the association plans to unveil a fourth floor area! Like we need more room to cover. I guess this means that we have to plan 33 percent better, to see it all.
So make sure that you bring an extra pair of comfortable shoes, to make sure that you don't have an excuse to not roam the halls completely and run the risk of missing out on a new innovation that may make a difference for your business or your clients.