Conference Beat™ – National Restaurant Show: Chicago, May 2016

NRA Show Photo


The National Restaurant Association (NRA) annual International Foodservice Marketplace is an annual event where 2,000+ companies showcase their work to more than 63,000 chefs, buyers, designers and operators. This year’s show was a great place to see enduring trends.


Industry Highlights

The foodservice industry is poised to grow 3.2% in 2016, according to the NRA Economic Forecast. Retail platforms and hospital/nursing foodservices can expect to see the highest growth in 2016 at 5.8% and 5.2% respectively.


Customer Insight

Consumer demand for a constant flow of new menu items is shortening product lifecycles and making limited time offers (LTOs) a successful strategy for many operators. Increasing the pressure on operators, a recent Culinary Visions® Panel survey of chain restaurant executives reveals that the time it takes to introduce a new menu item has increased, according to 54% of respondents.


Trend Spotting

Urban Design Trends: Reclaimed woods and warm earth tones reinforce the trend towards rustic, farm-to-table concepts. Tableware and accessories that complement the trend are more imaginative and widely available.


Sensible Strategies: As consumer trends shift toward health-conscious and sustainable eating, integrating a clean and nutritious menu strategy has become a priority for operators.


Cooking Elements in Demand: Combination cooking technologies enable chefs to cook a full menu of items with outstanding results.


Fast Casual Success: Refined fast casual has really taken off. The combination of visual appeal, customization, premium products and chef-driven recipes are factors in its success.


Balancing Act: Mintel reports that consumers look for healthy and indulgent options, and many consumers want their meals in different sizes.


Mindful Choices

Operators are scrutinizing front and back of house choices with an eye toward the environment. Energy efficient kitchen equipment and eco-friendly tableware, made from palm leaves or bamboo, offer an alternative to standard paper plates and take out containers at restaurants.


Implications for Operators

Technology Disruptions: New systems enable visual customization of food, making online ordering and delivery faster. This is driving off-premise satisfaction.


Elevated Authenticity: Today’s design-savvy, self-labeled “foodies” have educated taste buds but don’t want to compromise authenticity.


Clean Menus: Cleaning up current products, introducing new balanced options and addressing consumer demands will lead to a successful menu.


Taste Talk Tweet

  • Leading operators emphasizing purpose-driven strategies over profits
  • Investing and empowering staff to drive growth
  • Tasty trends featuring pickled colorful vegetables and bacon-flavored spirits

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