United States Sen. Fred Thompson is set to Keynote the 2007 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show, May 19-22, at McCormick Place in Chicago.
Thompson, the U.S. Senator from Tennessee from 1994-2002, will speak Sunday at 2:00 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom.
The NRA show is expected to bring together more than 70,000 foodservice-industry representatives from around the world who will test and taste their way through more than 2,000 exhibitors.
Here are a few show highlights:
Small world, big flavors — Ethnic cuisine and foreign food and beverage companies offer tastes of Brazil and Bavaria, India and Indonesia, North Africa and New Zealand, among other countries. Many of the exhibitors represent their countries' cuisines in the International Cuisine Pavilion, where they look for partnerships with U.S. distributors, chain restaurants and independent operators.
Farm-fresh ingredients — Chefs increasingly are cooking with organic and locally grown produce, fresh herbs, whole grains and grass-fed and free-range poultry and meat. Those ingredients are among the hottest food items for 2007, according to a National Restaurant Association survey of more than 1,000 chefs. This year's Show exhibitors have just what chefs are looking for.
Flatbreads — From pita to panini, flatbreads are rising to new heights in U.S. restaurants. They're among the 20 hottest food items for 2007 as identified in a National Restaurant Association survey of more than 1,000 chefs. Flatbreads are ideal for wraps, pizzas, quesadillas and sandwich carriers, exhibitors say. Other flatbreads available at the Show include Indian naan, roti and chapati, as well as lavash and tortillas.
Healthy alternatives — More than 11 million Americans have food allergies. Like their friends and relatives, they enjoy dining out. And they're loyal to operators who recognize the seriousness of food allergies and train staff to respond to guest needs. As restaurateurs familiarize themselves with the eight most common food allergens, they increasingly offer alternatives. Products at this year's Show include: a peanut-butter alternative from Clown-Gysin Brands of Northbrook, Ill.; a non-dairy, cream substitute from Albany, N.Y.-based Green Rabbit; and a cheese- and pine nut-free pesto from Greek Island Spice of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Germ warfare — Recent foodborne illness outbreaks have caused restaurateurs to scrutinize their food-safety practices. Some are embracing produce washes, such as those offered by exhibitor HealthPro Brands of Cincinnati. Others are investigating wall-mounted or tabletop devices that generate ozone-enriched water. Made by Benicia, Calif.-based exhibitor Element Ozone, the devices attach to a sink and dispense ozone-enriched water at the wave of a hand, spokesman Jeremy Kay says.
Takeout, delivery 1-click away — At this year's Show exhibitors can help operators satisfy customer demand for speed and convenience. According to the National Restaurant Association's 2007 Restaurant Industry Forecast, 13 percent of consumers have placed online orders at a restaurant. Indianapolis-based Patronpath and Chicago-based QuikOrder are among the 2007 Show exhibitors that offer online ordering systems, which benefit customers and restaurateurs.
Secure payment solutions — When dining out, customers want assurance their credit card and personal information is secure. NRA Show 2007 exhibitors offer several solutions to help safeguard that data. One example is Silver Spring, Md.-based Action Systems Inc. Its Write-on Handheld allows servers to swipe cards at the table. The product also complies with PCI standards set by the credit-card industry.
Fashion and comfort — Work shoes don't have to be boring or expensive, as proven by mainstream footwear manufacturers who also supply the restaurant industry. Popular shoe companies at the 2007 Show include Skechers USA-Work of Manhattan Beach, Calif., and Crocs Footwear of Boulder, Colo.
Designer décor — Looks from the past, present and future influence design in restaurant dining rooms. Whether operators want contemporary city chic, traditional elegance or tropical ambience, exhibitors can suit their tastes in tableware, stemware, furnishings and attire.
Green scene: Eco-friendly exhibitors — The NRA Show features tips for securing sustainable-agriculture products; supplies made from recycled waste and energy-saving equipment. The number of exhibitors in the Green Restaurant Products Pavilion is up 40 percent from 2006, says Green Restaurant Association Founder Michael Oshman. Operators recognize they can save money and gain loyalty from customers and employees by using green products, as well as stay ahead of legislative challenges, he says.