Thursday, May 23, 2013

Report from the 94th Annual National Restaurant Show

This past week was the 94th Annual National Restaurant Show. We are very lucky to have it in our back yard. It is one of the largest conventions in the world. Ask any cab driver what their best week of the year is for tips, and I am sure you will get the response it is during the National Restaurant Show. Every year in May, thousands of hospitality professionals make the pilgrimage to Chicago's McCormick Place.

If you want to tell how the economy is doing, look at the restaurant business. If people have a little extra cash and leisure, the restaurants and the restaurant show will be full. This year was the first time in the last several that they were able to occupy all three exhibit halls. Hopefully it is a sign of things to come. The restaurants downtown, that are frequented by the conventioneers, seemed to be packed. The outliers not so much. We did happen to make it to a restaurant called Telegraph. Mostly what peaked our interest was the fact that their chef has the exact same last name as mine. We have a very very uncommon last name "Anderes". We got to meet Johnny, and he told us he also has some Swiss family roots. I also want to give him a plug and would highly recommend his place. We had an absolutely outstanding dining experience.
We always have to stop at our point-of-sale provider to see what is new.  The technology is amazing.  Amongst the many new time saving features we will be seeing were a couple that really peaked our interest. When a guest gives us a cell phone number for their reservation and they are waiting for a table, we can simply push a button and it will send a text message to them telling them we are ready for them. Another was an option that if a customer checks in with us on their phone, they can view their guest check as we add to it,  pay from their phone and even order a another drink or food item. In the last case after ordering, the next time the server signs in to the point-of-sale system, the server is prompted with a message the guest would like another.

Another thing seeming to make great inroads that we are actively considering is electronic menus. We spend a ton of money and time on printing and processing our menus every day. These menu systems that are based on iPads or other tablets make a ton of sense from an ecological, a cost and graphic basis. The menu can be updated instantly. The pictures and descriptions are beautiful to look at and for us older patrons are very easy to read. The wine list can take you right to vineyard's website and even show exactly where the wine came from. This also can link directly to our website. The draw backs are the high initial cost and keeping track of all your expensive hardware. We are due for a menu upgrade and are seriously considering making this change.

One of the big topics for seminars was the upcoming implementation of Obamacare. As always, we attend many helpful and insightful seminars.

The show is an experience. I always tell my staff "go starving and you will still be stuffed before lunch." Here are a few of the other sites, sounds and observations from the show:

  • The food as always is amazing. From the fish mongers to specialty produce growers, it is fun to see what is new. Koppert Cress grows micro greens that have flavors you have never tasted before. One could spend half the day in the Sid Wainer booth sampling artisan foods.
  • My wife Rita loves to search out the celebrities. With the growth of all the cooking and restaurant shows, there is not shortage of them. Here she is with Chef Paul Prudhomme.

A couple of other things things that peaked our interest....
  • With as much interest craft beers are getting, Libby is pushing a line of glassware that is tailored to every type of brew.
  • The Living Wall is an architectural wall that doubles as a hydroponic garden for growing edibles.
  • Gluten free was every where.
  • The state of Illinois has its own section of the exhibit hall that is strictly for small Illinois companies.
  • Some things you most likely will not see here... There were a few companies selling these banana waffles on a stick. Then there was the Gibbydog (no comment). Speaking of dogs. Nathans is the company that sponsors that really gross hot dog eating contest on the 4th of July, The World Championship. Of course there is always a major line there.
  • Of course there is the gaudy and there is plenty of it.
  • Did you ever wonder what they do with all of your old data?
  • The dumbest idea of the show was what I call the GrillBa... a version of the roomba vacuum that cleans your grill.
Click here to view our full album of photos from the show!

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