The 98th National Restaurant Association (NRA) and Hotel-Motel Show was held May 20-23 at McCormick Place in Chicago. The show was the largest ever with 66,000 attendees from around the world gathering to learn about new trends in the restaurant industry, promote their products and services, and make lasting connections. There were various exhibitors including the latest kitchen tools and machines, flatware, and point-of-sale food service systems and technology. There were also a series of educational workshops and demonstration sessions. It is a must-see event for any hospitality management student and to most, it was their first time experiencing Chicago and an event of this magnitude.
“I was awed by the sheer size of the event and I was dazed beyond belief at my realization of how little I really knew about an industry I’m so passionate about,” said José Mejia Guerra, a senior in food and beverage emphasis area. “Then I realized that I was in the best place on Earth to learn about the restaurant world. I’m grateful to have spent a revitalizing weekend surrounded by people who are passionate about food and the hospitality industry. I met many wonderful people, learning about everything I could about food, finding career opportunities post-graduation, and trying every sample eager vendors offered me. A pocket full of business cards, a trunk full of merchandise, assorted souvenirs from the trip, and a pad filled with notes tell me that I won’t forget this trip anytime soon. The entire trip was a blast, and I’m grateful to the hospitality management department for giving us the opportunity to attend the NRA show.”
“During the show, I got to sit in on food and beverage demonstrations that featured world culinary showcases from top recognized chefs,” said Heather Johnson, a senior in the conference and events emphasis area. “I was invited up on stage for the mock videotaping of the chef’s demonstration and was within a few feet of Duff Goldman from Charm City Cakes. I also got to meet Robert Irvine in another showcase. All-around, I enjoyed the conference and I took very valuable information back to my hotel where I worked and implemented some of the products and services. I would have to say that the whole experience of the NRA Conference was well worth the time and I would be interested in going again!”
“Through NRA show, I experienced and learned the newest trends in the restaurant industry and met various industry people who are passionate about the hospitality industry,” said graduate student Kathleen Kim. “Specifically, I was able to experience self-order kiosks that have been used by several quick-service restaurants. Moreover, a speaker for Restaurant Industry 2020 stressed the importance of artificial intelligence which allows conversation between people and technology. I appreciate our department for the opportunity to experience the show.”
Students were also appreciative of the chance to meet up with MU alum Douglas Dunlay (’95). Dunlay is a partner in the 4-Star Restaurant Group which owns 10 restaurants in the Chicago area. He met with students at his new restaurant, Remington’s, and shared with them his experience regarding what it took to be an entrepreneur in the restaurant industry.