start quoteLike the overall economy, the show experienced a short-lived decline after Sept. 11end quote

-- Mary Pat Heftman NRA VP

Editor's note: This is the first story in an eight-part series highlighting the NRA Show.
National Restaurant Association officials estimate 73,000 people and 2,000 exhibitors will attend the 2006 NRA Hotel, Motel Show May 20-23 in Chicago. Now in its 87th year, the NRA is the largest single gathering of foodservice officials.

The NRA Show attracts more than 70,000 attendees from all over the world.

But like most of America, the popular show was negatively impacted after Sept. 11.
"Like the overall economy, the show experienced a short-lived decline after Sept. 11," said Mary Pat Heftman, the association's senior vice president of convention.   "However, since that time, the show has posted strong attendance and sales from around the world. 
"Many trade shows were impacted by lingering concerns over travel and the general economy, but we came through the situation with minimal effect on attendance. We're certainly thankful that our industry is so resilient and that restaurateurs continue to show great resolve through challenging times."
Why operators should attend
Consumers today expect more out of their restaurant experience than great food—they are increasingly seeing restaurants as an extension of their living room and office. According to NRA research, 27 percent of adults said they are likely to use wireless Internet access at their favorite tableservice restaurants if available, and 43 percent would use customer-activated ordering/payment terminals. In addition, 36 percent of consumers have used the Internet to visit a restaurant's Web site. Thirty-five percent have used the Internet to find out about a restaurant they haven't visited before, and 31 percent have viewed restaurant menus online.
These are all trends and subjects that will be covered at this year's show.
"This year, we are seeing very positive results in the number of exhibiting companies," Heftman said. "Correspondingly, we are anticipating strong attendee registration will follow suit, drawing record numbers of industry professionals to Chicago to explore the hottest trends on the exhibit floor, network and forge business relationships, and learn from leading experts."
Unique events
Three chefs will compete for the opportunity to represent the United States at the prestigious Bocuse d'Or World Cuisine Contest in Lyon, France, next year. The competing chefs are:

    NRA Show attendees can ask a restaurant design expert. (Graphic by Vision 360) 

  • Keith Armstrong, Executive Chef — Piping Rock Club, Locust Valley, N.Y.
  • Rick Gresh, Executive Chef — Caliterra, Wyndham Chicago
  • Gavin Kaysen, El Bizcocho Chef de Cuisine — Rancho Bernardo Inn, San Diego
Building on last year's success, the 2006 NRA Show will feature "Ask the Design Experts" consultations. Attendees will be able to receive free expert design advice by top design companies for their restaurants in private, face-to-face, by-appointment or walk-in advice sessions. "Having both the front-of-the-house décor that appeals to consumers and the back-of-the-house flow that increases productivity are vital to a successful restaurant," said Steven C. Anderson, president and chief executive officer of the Association. "The Ask the Design Experts consultation feature will provide Show attendees valuable insights into how they can improve their operations and create a balance between form and function that is both efficient and visually uplifting."

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