Your National Restaurant Show checklist: How to prepare for the industry’s biggest event

The National Restaurant Show (NRA Show) is right around the corner. In four action-packed days, you’ll learn so much about the industry that you can take back and apply to your business.

Your National Restaurant Show checklist: How to prepare for the industry’s biggest event

The National Restaurant Show (NRA Show) is right around the corner, and you’ve booked your trip already (and if you haven’t, here’s why you should go). You know when you get to Chicago, you’ll make connections with incredible restauranteurs from all over, taste new foods, and gain exposure to the many functions of the restaurant world. In four action-packed days, you’ll learn so much about the industry that you can take back and apply to your business.

Although the days are long, the show can easily be over in the blink of an eye. So how do you know what all to tackle at the National Restaurant Association Show?

The key to a successful show experience is having information ahead of time that can help you carve out the experience you want to have. With that in mind, here’s a checklist to make sure you’re making the most out of your show experience.

1) Establish your objectives—what do you want to get out of NRA this year?

Take a step back and think about what you’re looking to gain from going. Are you a new restaurant operator who just wants to learn more about the industry? Are you looking to shop around at vendor booths? Do you want to experiment with new tastes to incorporate in your menu? Or do you want to check out the latest in restaurant technology and news? Whatever your reasons for going, write them down. This helps you stay focused, so whenever you get overwhelmed with all the activities available to you, you can center yourself back to your objectives.

2) Look up businesses—what vendors and providers do you want to see?

NRA Show is the hottest event in the restaurant industry—and that means that everyone, big or small, will be there. You might think that the answer is to visit every single booth at the exhibition, but that’d be exhausting, and it won’t help you leave with meaningful conversations. Instead, make a list of companies or vendor categories that you are your must-sees. Check out NRA’s list of participating vendors—you can search by company name or even categories, and then add them to your planner. You can also check out the floor plan so you can plan your route—remember, the NRA show has three exhibit hall areas, so plan accordingly.

Related Links: Check out the floor plan in north hall

3) Curate your schedule—what's your plan for the days you are there?

NRA has something for everyone in the restaurant business, so you can make this experience what you want. Look at their events and plug in some of them into your schedule based on your desired objectives. If your goal is to learn as much as you can about the restaurant industry, they have three workshops that you can attend across three days. We’ve listed some events that can speak to your needs, so that finding your perfect Restaurant Show is easier than ever.

Are you looking to learn more about the industry?

Looking to network with others in the industry?

  • Register for the under 40 networking event here.
  • Sign up for the Industry Night Out event here.

Need tips on running your business?

  • Attend one of their workshops, where you can learn about subjects like:
    1. Menu optimization to grow your business
    2. Funding your restaurant business’ growth
    3. Branding and digital media

Want to elevate your menu?

  • Check out the food pavilions to try new tastes, from new alcoholic beverages to Italian cuisine to sustainable eats.

Do you have a more specific need?

Keep in mind that if you’d prefer to visit as many booths as possible, you can—and that is still a great way to make use of the four days. You can visit the exhibitors that you saved from step 2. (But make sure you bring comfortable shoes—your feet will thank you later.) Booths will be open from 9:30-5 from Saturday to Monday and 9:30-3 on Tuesday.

Related Links: Here’s what to ask when you’re looking for a restaurant POS

Find success at the booths—what do you want to walk away with?

There are vendors from all aspects of running a restaurant, from food providers and drinks vendors to kitchen equipment and restaurant technology. When visiting a booth, give the company some insight into your restaurant business. Be prepared to answer questions like:

  • What type of restaurant business do you have?
  • How many sites do you have?
  • What do you currently use as it relates to the vendor?
  • What are some challenges you are facing?
  • What are your business goals?
  • What is your role in the business?

These will ensure you have a meaningful discussion with all the vendors and guide you in the right direction. Most booth vendors will have lead scanning machines to capture your information if you are interested in a follow-up conversation.

Pro Tip: be sure all your information in your registration and profile is correct (particularly your email address and phone number).

Having a successful show experience is about finding direction in both your restaurant and in you as someone in the industry. It can help you grow your network, menu, and business success. If you come prepared with clear intentions in mind, you’ll leave with a much higher level of business knowledge—and your restaurant’s success will show it. Make sure you download our NRA checklist.