The National Restaurant Association Show is underway this week in Chicago, and the industry is putting its best food forward. The show floor is buzzing with new products and ideas, from dairy-free ice cream to fresh recipes for cocktails.
Former President Bill Clinton opened the NRA show on Sunday by praising the industry’s commitment to children’s health initiatives, but also asking restaurant owners and other operators to continue to push harder to make healthier food more accessible to battle childhood obesity. “There is a very narrow knife edge between falling off the cliff into hunger and falling on the other side where you’re not hungry,” Clinton said. “You can buy food, but you don’t have enough money to buy healthy food.”
On the show floor, exhibitors have noticed a refreshing change in tone from the past few shows. This year, there is a move to quality over price, reports Nation’s Restaurant News, as operators seek to distinguish their offerings. In its Top 10 food trends piece from the NRA show floor, the industry trade publication noted that single-serve desserts, customizable coffee drinks, Asian food flavors and sustainability issues were key trends. Regarding sustainability, “many restaurant operators were asking about the origins of items, from coffee to seafood to vegetables, as they attempted to respond to consumer demand for sustainably grown and processed foods,“ the publication wrote.
The NRA announced its top operators at the show as well, and winners included Waffle House, Sodexo School Services and Stacked Restaurants, which has created an iPad app that allows customers to customize their burgers, pizza and salads.
After a long day working a show, grabbing a drink sounds like a good idea. Why not try something new, like the Drunken Flower, a mixed drink that won the NRA’s third annual Star of the Bar competition. The Drunken Flower was created by bartender Patti Frank from Roots Handmade Pizza in Chicago.