One Industry. One Weekend. One Killer Show.

I’ve said it before and I will now say it again: nothing lifts the mood of the foodservice equipment and supplies industry quite like The NAFEM Show.

The positive vibe reverberating through the industry has less to do with the wonderful music of the closing band the Killers and more with the proud foot put forward by the NAFEM member companies exhibiting at this biennial celebration of all things melamine and stainless steel. That’s because one of the things that sets this exhibition apart from other industry events is that it’s run by the exhibitors for their customers and not the other way around. The vast majority of the exhibiting companies typically display their wares with a sense of pride that’s unique to this venue.

What further makes The NAFEM Show so unique is the way the attendees — representing all segments of the foodservice industry — match their enthusiasm. Rushed conversations were the norm as people happily hurried from one appointment to the next. With more than 500 exhibitors occupying 375,000 square feet of exhibit space, there was a lot to take in at The NAFEM Show. In fact, a show this size is virtually impossible to cover from end to end.

So under the disclaimer that in no way could I see the entire show, here are few thoughts and observations that stood out from my time in Orlando. 

Optimistic outlook: The vast majority of the people on the show floor were quite upbeat, and with reason. Most everyone I spoke with said their businesses were healthy and the outlook was just as sunny, which is great. Prior to the show opening, FCSI-The Americas held a daylong symposium that was very well attended by its members, who were also quite upbeat. I don’t know this for certain but it seemed as if there were more consultants than sponsors at that event, which is a strong commentary on the state of the consultant community at the moment. It was also good to see so many dealers and consultants walking the show floor with their operator customers, researching solutions for upcoming projects. Everyone’s pipeline seems pretty full and they expect things to stay that way.

New products abound: The NAFEM Show’s new products pavilion had 143 items on display and was one of the most active areas of the show floor. The busiest companies on the show floor were the ones with something new to show and those that prepared for the show by arranging appointments with current and potential customers. As is always the case, those with less-than-desirable traffic did not have much in the way of new products to show.

Connectivity counts: There seemed to be a renewed interest in equipment that communicates with operators via their computers or smartphones. While this technology is far from new, more factories seem to be pushing these types of features and functionality. That leads me to believe that the operator community is showing more interest in this area as they strive to make more efficient use of their labor.

Bounty of beverages: Be they hot or cold, operators keep turning to all kinds of beverage programs to keep customers coming back and The NAFEM Show floor reflected this trend. There many discussions about advanced coffee making machines, nitro coffee, cocktails, craft beer and much more. In a blog post recapping the show, Central Products, an Indianapolis-based foodservice equipment and supplies dealer, discusses some of the beverage technology its team saw on the exhibit floor.

What’s in a name: Several companies used the show as a coming out party of sorts to introduce the industry to their new name. In the days leading up to the show, Manitowoc Foodservice announced plans to change its name to Welbilt and just last month Carts of Colorado announced it would now go to market as Gallery, the name of the family that owns the company. And with all of the merger and acquisition activity taking place in the foodservice industry, the show also provided supply chain partners the opportunities to meet face to face to discuss the changing face of the industry and how their working relationships will evolve. 

Picture this: If you would like to relive the show in pictures, check out The NAFEM Show’s flickr page, where you will find more than 83 images that capture everything from the preshow festivities to the action in the exhibit hall. Also, Twitter users can search on #TheNAFEMShow or #NAFEM2017 to get an idea of how the show played out on social media.

 

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