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Really Big Show

SHOW AND TELL: More than 2,000 exhibitors will be showing their wares in the Show aisles, while the Chefs Stage will spotlight culinary skills.

WINDY CITY WELCOME: There's no shortage of after-hours possibilities.

INSPIRED: The Chefs Stage (above) and Technology Pavilion (below) are prime spots for picking up valuable ideas.

As always, this year's National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show packs a punch for every segment of the foodservice and hospitality business. Everyone from the most seasoned pro to a student, chain franchisee, independent restaurateur or noncommercial operator will come away from this four-day premiere industry event with inspiration and ideas. This year's Show—the 86th consecutive one of its kind—is expected to draw more than 73,000 attendees from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. They'll be able to walk through six miles of aisles hosting more than 2,000 exhibitors in nearly 900 product categories, sit in on targeted educational sessions and experience dramatic special events scattered throughout the busy schedule.

New at This Year's Show

  • Making its debut is Kitchen Innovations, an exclusive area set aside for equipment manufacturers to show off their newest and most innovative products. Attendees will be able to watch interactive presentations and demonstrations of these cutting-edge kitchen products, which were selected by an expert panel.
  • Dealersonly and by-appointment hours will be designated during the four Show days. "We wanted attendees to be able to see, touch and use the equipment, and taste the food created from the new products," says MaryPpat Heftman, senior vice president, convention, for the National Restaurant Association.
  • An International Cuisine Pavilion will focus exclusively on international food and beverage items.
  • Responding to demand for more exotic tastes, exhibitors from the U.S. and overseas will be showcasing traditional ethnic and international products from around the world.
  • Another new feature, Ask the Design Experts, gives attendees the chance to arrange private meetings where they can seek advice from top design companies. In cooperation with Foodservice Consultants Society International, front-and back-of-the-house industry design pros will be available to meet with
  • operators. You can schedule an appointment in advance at www.restaurant.org/show/events/ atde; unscheduled walk-in appointments will also be available.

The sprawling Show exhibit floor is divided into two levels; to simplify navigation, the layout singles out a number of industry niches. In addition to a new International Cuisine Pavilion (see box at left), this year's Show will host EDGE-Experience Design, a pavilion focusing on graphics, design, textiles, lighting, flooring and fixtures; a Minority Business Exchange Pavilion providing a forum for supplier diversity connections; a Technology Pavilion with a state-of-the-art resources and products center; a Franchise Pavilion, offering business and networking opportunities and a Natural and Organic Pavilion spotlighting exhibitors displaying certified organic food and beverage products.

In addition, an American Food Fair will offer tastes of meat, poultry, seafood, beverages, seafood and natural products from Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Idaho and South Dakota.

Bargain hunting? The Blue Plate Specials discount program offers buyers special savings and discounts with participating exhibitors if they order their products on the Show floor. Blue Plate Specials signs throughout the exhibit floor will designate participating vendors.

If you'd like to take a load off and learn something, more than 50 free educational sessions are scattered throughout the four days. Sessions cover key topics ranging from nutrition and healthy lifestyle trends to management, recruitment and retention and branding. Among this year's hot topics:

  • "Dietetics Roundtable: Choice Through the Foodservice Industry," a panel discussion on Saturday
  • "Exploring the Current Nutrition Trends in the Restaurant Industry—a Year in Review," Saturday
  • "Hiring Top Talent: A Guide to Recruiting and Interviewing Famous Candidates" on Sunday
  • "20 Ways to Improve Kitchen Profits in the Next 10 Days" on Sunday
  • "Wage Reporting—a Social Security Administration Tutorial" on Monday

Finally, what restaurant show would be complete without a little friendly rivalry and dramatic demos? The traditional ice carving competition carries on through the four days, with toolwielding participants vying for the $2,500 grand prize. Select audience members will have a chance to help judge the contest, which takes place on Level 1 in the North Hall; the finale is on Tuesday, May 24.

At the Chefs Stage, you can watch 16 of the best U.S.-based pros show off their chops throughout the four days of the Show. Challenged to create fun, flavorful and healthy concepts, demos by the group—selected from several industry segments—provide a great source of new ideas.

The ultimate competition—the Main Course 10K Run/5KWalk—marks its silver anniversary this year as Chicago's oldest and largest race. Strollers, walkers, joggers and runners at all levels are invited to join the 3,000-some participants. The Main Course attracts not only indiduals and teams attending or exhibiting at the show but members of the general public as well. The race, which winds through downtown Chicago, kicks off at 8 a.m. on Sunday May 22. To participate, you must register by May 20 at www.restaurant.org/show/events/course.cfm.

Networking, Celebration, and Can't-Miss Events

The four Show days are packed with special receptions and gatherings for various special interest groups. Many of these events require tickets or preregistration, and some are by invitation only.

  • On Sunday May 22, former U.S. Secretary of State and retired General Colin Powell will deliver the keynote address. He's expected to talk about the abundant global opportunities for the foodservice industry and its impact on foreign trade. General Powell became the 65th Secretary of State in 2001 under President George W. Bush. He retired from that post earlier this year. Before becoming Secretary of State, Powell served as a key aide to the Secretary of Defense and as National Security Advisor to President Ronald Reagan. Powell's speech kicks off in the Grand Ballroom at McCormick Place South at 2:00 p.m.; doors open at 1:30.
  • For international attendees, the annual International Reception provides an exclusive chance to mingle and build relationships with their counterparts from other parts of the world while enjoying food, cocktails and music. The Saturday, May 21 event requires a badge for admittance. Another international attendeeonly event is a half-day of back-of-the-house restaurant tours that take groups behind the scenes at some of Chicago's most successful restaurants.
  • The 49th annual Hennessy Awards Breakfast will honor the special achievements of service men and woman at Air Force food facilities worldwide. Tickets for this May 21 event at the Hilton Chicago must be purchased in advance by calling 202-331-5967.
  • The day-long Salute to Excellence on May 21 underscores the importance of restaurants as providers of career and employment opportunities. Sponsored by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, the day of education-related activities is capped by an awards banquet honoring participating students, educators and industry leaders. To purchase tickets or for more information, call 312-715-6770 or visit www.nraef.org.
  • The 2005 Spirit Awards FMP Recognition Breakfast on Monday, May 23 showcases restaurant and foodservice operators who achieve superior guest service through employee satisfaction. Call the Resource Center for Workforce Solutions, 312-261-5313, for details and reservations.
  • The Restaurant Executive Breakfast, held Saturday, May 21 at McCormick Place, is an invitation-only breakfast and Show preview open to executive-level personnel from multiunit operations attending the Show. Preregistration is required. Call 312-853-2525 or e-mail [email protected].
The Essentials

What: National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel/Motel Show

Where: McCormick Place, Chicago

When: May 21-24; exhibits on Level 1 are open 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.; those on Level 3 are open 9:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

Who and how: To attend the show, you must be directly involved with the foodservice and/or lodging industries. NRA members can register for free. To register before the Show, visit www.restaurant.org/ show/registration. You can also register at the Show for $60 per person.

For more information, check out www. restaurant.org/show or call 312-853-2525.

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