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How to Make the Most Out of Attending the Biggest Restaurant Show of the Year

Restaurant Marketing, Events - May 17, 2018 Written By: Sculpture Hospitality

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The National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, Illinois is an annual event full of speakers, vendors, industry information and lots of opportunities to network with people from around the country. With so much going on, it can feel overwhelming. Here are some tips for making the most out of your trip and strategies that are great for any food or restaurant show:

1. Do your research. The NRA show has a full schedule along with a list of vendors and exhibit floor highlights published on their website. Get to know who will be there and prioritize your time before you even arrive at the event. A little planning will prevent you from wasting time wandering around the floor. Or for more convenience, download their show app!

2. Ask other attendees for their recommendations. Once the event is underway, be sure to ask other attendees about which exhibits they have enjoyed the most. Listen to the buzz (#FiredUp and #NRAShow18) and find out which booths are creating the most excitement so that you can make sure these are on your list.

3. Schedule some time for the technology. You will be amazed to see the types of hardware, software and different technological tools that are on the market. From inventory management systems to accounting and reporting programs, these advancements are designed to help you operate more efficiently while also increasing profits. Don't miss out on the opportunity to see what kind of technology is pushing the industry forward and how it can be put to use in your establishment.

4. Save the BAR showcase for the end of the night. After a long day of checking out products and speaking with restauranteurs, treat yourself to some free samples at the Beverage Alcohol for Restaurants exhibit. This section of the show highlights top mixologists along with innovative new ingredients and products that will help you improve your beverage program. Leaving this area for the end of the day is the perfect way to relax while also doing some research.

5. Don't forget the Kitchen Innovations Showroom. While there are hundreds of exhibits to visit, this area showcases winners of the Kitchen Innovation Awards. Featured products have been recognized for making kitchens more efficient in a way that will continue to impact the industry for years to come. This is a great place to get some inspiration and participate in "fireside" chats with knowledgeable dealers and consultants.

6. Stay flexible. Yes, you want to do your research and have a plan in place, but be sure to work in some flexibility. An exhibit may catch your eye while you are walking the show floor or you may find yourself spending more time than expected at the BAR since it is now open to all attendees. Getting the most out of the show will vary from person to person, so don't be afraid to allow for some spontaneity in your schedule.

7. Exchange contact information. These events are also about networking. Make sure to bring plenty of business cards and collect information as you make your way through the show. You never know when a new connection will turn into an opportunity. You might also find that you have follow-up questions once you get home after the whirlwind experience of the show and you want to be able to easily locate contact information.

Trade shows are an exciting time to see what is happening in the bar and restaurant industry and to look for ways to improve your own business. With the right strategies, you can get the most out of every interaction and turn this yearly event into a truly valuable experience.

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