Sneak peek: NRA 2009
As business owners and consumers alike continue to feel the pinch of a slumping economy that showing few signs of an upturn, tradeshow organizers are learning they're not exempt from recession-induced performance slumps. After all, in times like these, travel budgets often are among the first to be slashed.
 
Thanks to that reality, organizers of the National Restaurant Association's Restaurant, Hotel-Motel show have found themselves looking for ways the make attending worth operators' while.
 
"This year, the state of the economy is on everyone's mind, and many restaurants are focused on how to make their operations more productive, how to cut operating costs without sacrificing quality and how to drive customer traffic," said Annika Stensson, an NRA spokesperson. "Therefore, we have focused our programming to answer those questions and highlight survival strategies."
 
That programming is set to include the usual staples, such as the design-focused Edge Pavilion and the Franchise Pavilion, but also will feature items that are laser-focused on the survival strategies Stensson mentioned. For instance, the session schedule includes such titles as:
  • "How to Stand Out in a Tough Economy"
  • "Building Profit: The ‘How-to' of a New Fiscal Model for Foodservice"
  • "The Survival Mindset: Making it in Today's Economy"
  • "How to Recession-Proof Your Business"
  • "Weathering the Economic Storm: A Collegiate Foodservice Perspective"
In addition to the more than 65 free educational sessions, this year's show will feature book signings by a roster of celebrity authors, the 2009 Kitchen Innovation Awards and the International Wine, Spirits and Beer event.
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Aside from programming that targets operators who are fretting over the economy, show organizers also will encourage attendees to learn more about going green and incorporating sustainable practices through sessions such as "The Future is Now: Elegant, Sustainable, Cost-Effective Energy Solutions for Building Green" and "Save Water, Save Money." Attendees also can discover how to invigorate their menu and their brand in the Organic and Natural Pavilion.
 
"We offer solutions to ‘going green,' which can save on utility costs immediately," Stensson said. "Those immediate savings can be reinvested to produce even bigger savings in the near future. Enhancing productivity and efficiency now will position companies for future growth when the economy turns around."
 
 Know Before You Go
 
NRA Restaurant, Hotel/Motel Show 2009 May 16-19 McCormick Place Chicago
Stensson also warned against skipping this year's show to save money, suggesting that the benefits of attending are well worth the investment.
 
"No other event provides more face-to-face contact between more buyers and sellers at such a low cost," she stressed. "In only four days in one place, you'll get a year's worth of opportunities and access to more ideas, products and solutions than at any other single event."
 
Last year, just more than 50,000 attendees made the trip to NRA (not including exhibitor personnel). This year, organizers expect comparable numbers.
 
 

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