Freshly back from the National Restaurant Show in Chicago and what a show it was.  With over 1800 exhibitors spanning 12 football fields in size, in over 900 product categories there was plenty to experience.  From trendspotting to collaborative conversations there was hardly a dull moment. Let’s spotlight a few of the takeaways and learnings that are bound to shape our industry.  

 Summing it up, I would say the show was a dynamic hub of innovation, education, and networking opportunities.  

Kicking off Saturday Night: IFMA Gold & Silver Plate Dinner 

This year was the 70th anniversary of the IFMA Gold & Silver Plate Dinner. It was a very special evening where past winners across the years were invited back, walked across the red carpet, and up onto the stage with an escort. I had my red carpet moment with Charlie McConnell (see image). After the dinner, there was plenty of mingling in the tasty dessert lounge perfect for making new friends and catching up with familiar faces. It was a spectacular evening and time well spent with our industry friends.  

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National Restaurant Show: Top 3 Highlights 

The next day, it was over to the show floor. From checking out the latest trends, learning about new technologies, and tasting some fantastic food the overall vibe of the show was that it was buzzing with energy. 
If I had to pick the top 3 highlights from the show: 

Automation and Robotics
On the data side of foodservice, like at Tibersoft, AI and Machine Learning were front and center. Robotics and automation were on full display.  Robots were fun and plentiful.  From robots that mop the floor to delivering trays of food tableside to flipping burgers the robots were fun and plentiful, and all there to help drive efficiencies.  

A practical use of automation was illustrated when dishes being taken out of the dishwasher were placed on a belt that scans and sorts them bringing them to wherever it needs to go in the kitchen.  Then there was the unique example such as the robot barista who made your coffee beverages and could be rented to entertain at your next event for only $15,000 a day!  

New and Exciting Food Options  
While we know that plant-based have become more commonplace in foodservice, there were still exciting new options shown. One that stands out is a plant-based tuna that looks exactly like the real thing. I should have tried it but I had just come from the incredible pizza section and was pretty full at that point.   

One area of the show floor that caught our eye was the “Taste of the States” section. Sponsored by NASDA there were booths representing products from 17 states. Designed to provide small to medium US food and beverage companies the ability to exhibit in the premier foodservice event. Some of the costs were even eligible to be covered by the USDA for those that qualified.   

I stopped by the “Crunch Factory” booth which happens to be from my hometown of Buffalo NY and found it very tasty indeed.  They lived up to their tagline of “Unexpected Crunch” and they delivered! Everything was a breaded crunch from crunchy mac and cheese to crunchy jalapenos.  

 Fun with Clients and Industry Folks
On Monday night, we attended a leading GPO’s – Buyer’s Edge – cocktail party at the game room. We ran into many friendly faces from clients and old friends. Many of our clients had booths and it was great to visit in person and spend time with them.  One such client, J&J Snacks let us feel like kids again, getting brain freeze from tasty slushies and having churro fries with an intoxicating smell of sugar and cinnamon. We found ourselves going back a couple of times!

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A Marathon of Great Connections in the Commercial Space 

This year’s National Restaurant Show was a fast-paced whirlwind of a weekend, and I felt energized arriving home to see what the next few months would bring. Thank you to all who took the time to catch up with us at Tibersoft. If we missed you and you’d still like to connect, please reach out to me at   

 Until next year’s show!