270B is a minority-owned business
nmsdc

NMSDC Certificate
270B is a minority-owned business

and part of the National Minority Supplier Development Council Inc.

Close

Loading for optimal experience

Back

National Restaurant Association Show 2024 Recap

The National Restaurant Association Show is the must attend event for every member of the restaurant and foodservice industry­. As the world’s most influential showcase of foodservice innovation and inspiration, it’s where every trend, solution and category are represented.1 This year, the show was held in Chicago, Illinois, at the McCormick Center. 

The first thing that came to mind when I arrived was how massive the showrooms were. The show floor spanned over 723,400 square feet (over 12 football fields) with over 2,000 exhibitors. 

Second was how many people were there. There were more than 58,000 foodservice professionals from across the United States and around the globe, representing 124 countries.2

We were ready to jump right in and explore everything the show had to offer.

 

Creative Booths 

Heinz 

This booth was one of the busiest and most creative. 

I enjoyed the variety of samples provided every day. I stayed the entire 4 days, and every day it was something new. From chicken wings to plant-based mac & cheese, they made sure to have a diverse range of dishes and flavors for attendees to try. 

One main focus for them was to promote the launch of their new line of ‘Restaurant-Worthy Cream Sauces’3 – which were available to try with every sample dish. 

There was a very long line at their booth, and after asking a staff member, I found out they were giving out personalized Heinz bottles with your name on it. How cool!

Coca-Cola 

Coca-Cola’s booth was a crowd favorite. 

The most popular part of the booth was their pop-up “frozen experience” featuring a topping station (with toppings like Twang Chile Lime Salt and Pink Cotton Candy Sugar) and mix-and-match beverage options to show how foodservice operators can appeal to consumers looking for snack-worthy experiences.4

They also had a theater stage set up as part of their Leader Lab initiative – a people-centric leadership program that addresses a significant issue facing the future of foodservice: attracting, developing and retaining an engaged frontline workforce.5 There were special guests throughout the conference on stage, like U.S Olympic Gold Medalist Laurie Hernandez.

Avocados From Mexico 

Our clients used every part of their booth for interactive elements and guac sampling.  The theme was ‘Guac Heaven,’ an immersive experience to show foodservice operators how fresh avocados can be infused in any type of cuisine.6

They invited guests to build the ‘guac of their dreams’ with a DIY guacamole bar. Attendees can choose from a selection of pre-customized options, including Elotes Guac and Hot Honey Guac, or choose from the over 50 fresh ingredients at the bar.7 

There were interactive demos throughout the show with celebrity Chef Pati Jinich, Chef Nate Weir, and more. The booth also featured a Virtual Reality Kitchen experience, an AI Menu Ideation Kiosk and a Guac Robot!

Celsius 

With their recent rise in popularity, I was not surprised to see them present, and their booth was right on brand. The theme was a modern, chill sports bar and it was super inviting. 

It was a revolving machine of Celsius drinks all day. Their focus was to debut their new line of flavors – Cosmic Vibe, Astro Vibe, and Galaxy Vibe – and they also had their new Celsius Essentials line available to taste. 

Bartenders created mocktails with Celsius drinks that were super instagrammable and fun. 

Sports games played throughout the day on their TVs, which naturally drew a crowd and allowed people to network in a natural way. The music was also very upbeat and trendy. Such a vibe!

Prime Roots 

As soon as I pulled up to the McCormick center, the Prime Roots Cyber Truck was parked outside. I and everyone who walked by picked up their phone to take a photo. And when the truck wasn’t curbside, it was inside their booth to give a real WOW factor.

I was able to taste their plant-based pizzas and sandwiches – they were delicious! 

Robo-Cook 

One of the coolest tech pieces I saw at the show was the Robo-Cook. It’s a robotic arm that will make you a perfectly cooked steak and bake you a cake! Enough said!

 

Culinary Trends

Every year, the National Restaurant Association releases the What’s Hot 2024 Culinary Forecast.1,500 culinary professionals weighed in on trends for 2024 and here are a few key takeaways:  

Top 10 Trends Overall

  • World Stage Soups & Stews (Birria, Chicken Tom Kha, Laksa, Salmorejo, Upscale Ramen)
  • Global Chicken Wings
  • International BBQ
  • Incorporating Social Media Trends (TikTok)
  • Grilled/Cooked Cheeses (Provoleta, Queso Fundido, Raclette, Halloumi, Juustoleipa)
  • Wagyu Beef
  • Stuffed Vegetables (Chiles en Nogada, Stuffed Peppers, Stuffed Cabbage Rolls)
  • Regional Menus
  • Streamlined Menus
  • Hot Honey Breakfast Sandwiches

Top Dishes

Comfort foods clearly appeal, and nothing says comfort like a bowl of delicious soup or savory stew. 

  • World Stage Soups & Stews (Birria, Chicken Tom Kha, Laksa, Salmorejo, Upscale Ramen) 
  • Global Chicken Wings 
  • International BBQ 
  • Grilled/Cooked Cheeses (Provoleta, Queso Fundido, Raclette, Halloumi, Juustoleipa) 
  • Stuffed Vegetables (Chiles en Nogada, Stuffed Peppers, Stuffed Cabbage Rolls) 

 

Top Flavors 

The heat is on! Coast to coast, customers find Carolina, Kansas City, and Texas BBQ sauces together on the table. They have a choice of Chicago, New York, or Detroit-style pizzas, and can sample local takes on upper Midwest hotdish and low-country boils. 

  • Nashville Hot 
  • Everything Bagel Spice 
  • Agave Syrup 
  • Turmeric Ginger 
  • Hibiscus 

 

Top Beverages 

The common denominator in non-alcoholic beverages is the demand for products that boost energy—but those that promise health benefits in addition to energy are gaining market share fast. 

  • Nitro Cold Brew 
  • Energy Drinks 
  • Functional Waters 

All in all, I highly recommend attending the show if you are a foodservice professional. We were able to network with industry leaders, discover the latest culinary trends, and admired some truly impressive booths. We can’t wait for next year!

 

Appendix

  • 1.https://www.nationalrestaurantshow.com/why-attend
  • 2.https://www.nationalrestaurantshow.com/2024-national-restaurant-association-showr-draws-58000-foodservice-professionals-6-growth#:~:text=PRESS%20RELEASES-,2024%20National%20Restaurant%20Association%20Show%C2%AE,Foodservice%20Professionals%20with%206%25%20Growth&text=CHICAGO%20(May%2023%2C%202024),event%20for%20the%20foodservice%20industry.
  • 3.https://ir.kraftheinzcompany.com/news-releases/news-release-details/yes-chef-kraft-unveils-new-line-restaurant-worthy-creamy-sauces
  • 4.https://foodinstitute.com/focus/drinks-catering-to-gen-z-steal-the-show-in-chicago/
  • 5.https://www.nrn.com/marketing/new-coca-cola-leader-lab-levels-next-generation-frontline-foodservice-leaders
  • 6.https://www.thepacker.com/news/foodservice/avocados-mexico-makes-debut-national-restaurant-association-show
  • 7.https://www.foodservicedirector.com/menu/11-food-trends-we-spotted-2024-national-restaurant-association-show#page=11

 

 

 

YOU MAY LIKE

Transforming the NRA Show Floor with Digital Innovation

read more

Coachella and Experiential Marketing

read more

TikTok Shop: 6 Months Later, What’s the Verdict?

read more