After a slow attendee start at this year's National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show, things were in full swing Saturday afternoon as show goers ate and drank their way through six miles of aisles.
Innovations in technology appeared to be the show's big draw as companies such as Micros, Digital Dining, Turbo Chef, SCA Tissue and Pitco showcased the latest in restaurant-operations technology.
In the Kitchen Innovations pavilion Pitco introduced their award-winning Solstice Supreme, an automatic self-cleaning burner that uses a matchless ignition system to launch the 30-second procedure. The company also has on display its Solstice water rethermalizer.
A few booths away, BioHitech America is displaying its BioX, a patent-pending biological process designed to decompose and dissolve up to 1500 pounds of food waste per day. The BioX is one of several products highlighting energy- and waste-efficient products.
An emphasis on environmentally-friendly goods and services is receiving more attention this year than in the past.
The Green Restaurant Products Pavilion has on display nearly twice the number of exhibitors when compared to last year, said Excel Dryer Inc.'s Bill Gagnon.
Excel has on display its 10-second hand dryer and was exhibiting for the second-straight year in the Green Restaurant Products Pavilion. Gagnon said the pavilion has increased in size because of the support it has received within the last year from the NRA.
"The NRA being behind it has caused more traffic and people coming over specifically for green products," he said.
At least 15 fast-casual, quick-serve and casual-dining concepts are exhibiting during the show. Dunkin' Donuts, Boston 's the Gourmet Pizza, Firehouse Subs, Buffalo Wild Wings, Pizza Patron and Cosi are just a smattering of the franchises in the Franchise Pavilion.
Marc Mushkin from Sagittarius Brands, parent of Captain D's and Del Taco, said the idea is to plant a seed in the minds of perspective franchisees. Mushkin said Del Taco representatives have been attending the NRA show "for many years."
"We believe these shows are critical to getting face-to-face with restaurant (operators)," he said. "Everybody in this industry comes to this show.
Raving Brands president and chief operating officer Steve LaMastra spoke during a franchise session Saturday. During an interview before his session LaMastra said there appears to be a melding between fast-casual and casual-dining operations.
"Consumers don't care what your platform is," he said. "They want a high-quality product and they want it fast."
Raving Brands recently puchased its first casual-dining chain, Atlanta-based The Flying Biscuit, in a sale that went through this month.
Attendees have three more days to walk the levels and aisles before the 88th annual NRA show ends.
Educational sessions for May 20 include:
Sustainability:Why it's important to growing your coffee products
Curbside to go: Take the lead or suffer the consequences
Moving away from trans fats: Reasons, realities and resources