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Highlights from the 2017 National Restaurant Association Show: Part 1

May 31, 2017

Hosting more than 2,000 exhibitors and 60,000 industry professionals, the National Restaurant Association show took place from May 20 to May 23 at McCormick Place in Chicago.

Presented across a Fitbit taxing THREE halls at McCormick place, the NRA show was full of tasty trends, culinary innovations, and education. Here is the first installment, which looks at highlights and takeaways from an industry perspective.

Future of Foodservice

Education was front and center this year, with sessions spanning diverse topics from consumer trends, operations, emerging technology and workforce development. Hudson Riehle, senior vice president, Research & Knowledge Group, National Restaurant Association, provided perspective on the scale of the restaurant industry. He noted that sales are projected to reach $799 billion this year, a 4.3% lift from last year. To put that number in perspective, he added that if the restaurant industry were a country, it would be larger than 90% of all global economies. And while the demand is high, growth is slowing: with millennial debt and increased competition from food trucks and grocery meal kits to name a couple of headwinds. Riehle offered some disruptive suggestions such as real-time menu pricing enabled by video menu boards. He noted that three out of four customers would go to a restaurant at off-peak hours if it meant a discount. Additionally, Riehle sees an opportunity for subscription services to generate incremental demand, borrowing from the Netflix playbook to capture a cost-conscious millennial consumer.

Takeaway: As grocery doubles-down on meal kits and prepared food offerings, lateral thinking can unlock new areas of competitive advantage. What models or practices outside of your category can you leverage to better understand your customer?