The 93rd annual National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show and 5th annual International Wine, Spirits & Beer Event posted strong growth in both attendee and exhibitor numbers. This year’s event attracted 61,000-plus registrants from all 50 states and 100-plus countries – an increase of more than 6 percent over 2011.

Among NRA Show registrants, there was an 8 percent increase in the restaurant/foodservice category, a 6 percent increase in the dealer/distributor category, a 21 percent increase in retail, and 7 percent increase in the press category. The significant increase in attendance also fueled a gain in the number of hotel room nights sold, representing a 5 percent increase over 2011. The NRA Show was held at Chicago’s McCormick Place May 5-8, and IWSB was held in conjunction with the NRA Show on May 6-7.

On the exhibitor side, there was a 5 percent increase in square feet occupied over 2011, covering more than 540,000 square feet. The sold-out, newly redesigned exhibit floor showcased 1,900-plus exhibiting companies, offering a stream of new products and services, including more than 500 new exhibitors, as well as a wide variety of learning opportunities.

“NRA Show 2012 and IWSB were blockbuster events, each delivering a high-impact springboard to energize the restaurant and foodservice industry,” said Jack Crawford, convention chair for NRA Show 2012 and president and CEO of Ground Round Independent Owners Cooperative LLC. “The event gathered more industry leaders than any other industry event, from celebrity chefs and restaurateurs, to the largest commercial feeders and lodging companies, to executives from some of the most successful independent restaurants and top-performing chains. Restaurant operators are returning home revitalized and optimistic and ready to put new products, ideas and contacts to work.”

The International Wine, Spirits & Beer Event (IWSB) featured hundreds of world-class beverage alcohol brands and labels and attracted thousands of buyers. Held in conjunction with the NRA Show on Sunday and Monday, IWSB significantly increased its total number of exhibiting companies by 40-plus percent over 2011.

Highlights from NRA Show 2012 and IWSB included:

  • Operator Innovations Awards: The inaugural Operator Innovations Award winners in each award category: Sustainability, Technology, Food Safety, Health & Nutrition and Menu Development, plus the Innovator of the Year, Evelyn Hill, Inc. (Liberty Island), were revealed live at the Destination: Celebration event at the Harris Theater Rooftop Terrace at Millennium Park.
  • Star of the Bar Mixology Competition: Patti Frank from Chicago’s Roots Handmade Pizza won the coveted IWSB Star of the Bar title and $5,000 cash prize. Her Drunken Flower was selected as the winning cocktail by judges “The Master Mixologist” Tony Abou-Ganim, “King Cocktail” Dale DeGroff, and Bravo TV’s Top Chef contestant Fabio Viviani.

NRA Show 2013 will be held May 18-21 at Chicago’s McCormick Place, and the 2013 International Wine, Spirits & Beer Event held in conjunction with the NRA Show will take place May 19-20.

Former President Bill Clinton delivered the event's keynote address. Additionally, the Kitchen Innovations Pavilion showcased the latest in technology solutions for restaurant-industry operators.

Click here to view a slideshow of Kitchen Innovations award winners.

Read more about operations management.

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