California Dreamin’: Looking Back on The NAFEM Show

Nothing brings out the best in the foodservice equipment and supplies industry quite like The NAFEM Show. For three days it seems everyone is in the best possible mood while hobnobbing beneath NAFEM’s biennial big top. The burdens of business challenges seem to fade to the background as various new applications of stainless steel, melamine and even china have everyone forgetting the past, even for a moment — because, to paraphrase one-hit wonder Timbuk3: their future’s so bright they’ve gotta wear shades.

It would not be a NAFEM Show without a complete cadre of new products. Harkening back to the age old battle cry of “if it’s new, it’s at NAFEM” there was much to look at on the show floor — more than anyone could hope or want to see in three days. The What’s Hot! What’s Cool! displays provided a high-tech display of new products.

This year’s show brought plenty of innovation in the area of waste management technology. Key pieces of cooking equipment continue to shrink while becoming more and more versatile. It seems as if the industry is starting to appreciate induction technology and all of its potential. Overall, all of the new products created quite a buzz throughout the aisles.

It would be difficult to confine such an infectious sense of optimism to the show floor. And this year’s upbeat vibe permeated a variety of pre-show conferences, including those hosted by the Commercial Food Equipment Service Association and the Foodservice Consultants’ Society International — The Americas Division.

FCSI doubled down on its educational offerings by going from a half-day seminar format to a full-day symposium long on substance as well as style. And what can only be seen as a positive step forward for the foodservice industry as a whole, this was the first time in recent memory where the number of FCSI consultants present was greater than the number of vendors in the room — and there was no shortage of factory support for this event.

Attendees did more than catch up with old friends. They took time from their schedules to stop, collaborate and listen — as the symposium’s Vanilla Ice-inspired theme encouraged them to do. There was a philosophical shift among attendees at this event and at The NAFEM Show as it seems individual members of the industry are now trying to find new ways to work together to grow their businesses instead of just trying to hang on to some of the market share they had, as was often the unspoken theme at various events during the economic downturn.

How long this period of good feeling will last is anyone’s guess. But I can promise you this, it will last much longer for those who continue to add value to their relationships. That’s because if The
NAFEM Show reminds us of any one thing every two years, it is that the products and the exhibits are the conduits to building and maintaining those relationships that serve as the cornerstone of the foodservice industry’s success.

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