Another great year at The National Restaurant Association Show 2018; and this year brought even more innovation and inspiration to the table. Over the four days, more than 60,000 restaurateurs, operators, industry experts, vendors, and more walked through the doors of the McCormick Center in Chicago.
Our booth was home to demos, interviews, meaningful conversations, and yes, beer! And now that we’ve digested all the amazing food and information – here are our top highlights and takeaways from the show.
Appetizing Restaurant Social Media
Our friends at Main Street Hub talked to us about the importance of social media and online reputation for restaurants. Emma, the Local Outreach Manager for Main Street Hub described how restaurateurs can drive traffic and engage with customers through their social channels. The hot trend in social selling? User-generated content. Restaurants are leveraging their diners’ content and photos to enhance their brand, and ultimately boost their bottom line.
Plant-based alternatives were everywhere. For example, Ocean Hugger Foods sampled the world’s first-plant-based alternative to raw tuna that can be used for sushi, sashimi, ceviche, and poke bowls. Also spotted were plant-based alternatives for sausages, eggs, and yogurt.
Additionally, vegetables were taking the spotlight – and not just in dishes, in cocktails! According to Datassential, roasted carrots are rising on menus, up 124% in the past four years.
We talked to a number of industry leaders in mobile loyalty including Como, LoyaltyPlant, and LevelUp as well as restaurateurs who have deployed mobile loyalty programs. For example, Prakash from Balance Grille has seen dramatic results since implementing a mobile loyalty solution; since the implementation 42% of their customers using the app more than twice a month, and boosts their sales by increasing average check size by 9%.
Everything from a sushi machine that automates the rolling process to self-service kiosks – the restaurant show saw a lot of automation. Self-service kiosks were a focal point, especially for the quick service and fast casual establishments that were interested in cutting overhead costs.
Some took it further, Bear Robotics demo’d their robotic server that delivers the food from back of house to table. Again, the conversation between high-touch and high-tech will continue to dominate the industry as tech plays a more significant role.