|SmallBytes February 2014 Edition|
What To Expect At This Year's Restaurant Show
With the New Year and resolutions still fresh, it may be hard to believe that March and the International Restaurant Show of New York will be here soon. But one of the biggest events in the industry is right around the corner, and we caught up with Ron Mathews, who has had a hand in organizing the event for nearly fifteen years, to learn what's new, what will never change, and what we can expect at this year's show.
Behind the scenes, the restaurant show was purchased in August by Urban-Exposition, a trade show management company that produces thirty events a year. Customers might not notice the difference right away, Mathews, the vice president of food service shows, said. But the service oriented company aims to zip visitors through lines and make setup easier for exhibitors. The New York State Restaurant Association remains the Official Sponsor and plays a pivotal role of the annual event.
"Gourmet Way," the center aisle, which used to be the source of some traffic jams, will be widened again this year to allow for easy pedestrian flow. Good thing, Mathews said, as he expects even more booths than last year's whopping 700.
"The trends we’re seeing coming from the exhibitors, and I think what we’ll experience when we get there live, are very similar to some of the trends happening in the restaurant industry today," Mathews said.
Local sourcing will continue to be an important feature of the show. The popular Pride of New York section is on track to grow by about 20 percent, said Mathews. On the third day of the event, The Show has partnered with the Empire State Development, NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Cornell University, and Edible Magazine to organize the 2nd annual Farm to City Expo, a symposium on "Turning Local Purchasing into Profits for Farmers, Restaurateurs and Entrepreneurs”.
Another trend that isn't showing signs of slowing down: technology. As consumers, we see technology move so fast that in six months we see our phones as being old. Restaurateurs see technology moving at the same speed, especially mobile, Mathews said. "I think at some point we’re going to be walking around with phones instead of money. And I think it’s closer than we think it is. It’s happening around the world more quickly than it’s happening in the US." Mathews has personally experienced the move to mobile. "Yesterday I was in line at Starbucks and someone just took out their phone to pay. And I used the stored value card on my key ring to pay; I realized I need the mobile phone pay option. My next step will probably be the phone," he said.
Starbucks isn't the only one taking to technology. "More and more smaller restaurants are getting POS systems that are not only cash registers but also act as inventory control systems that allow them to not only account for their goods and sales but manage the business on a day-to-day basis."
The show's educational programs (The Ferdinand Metz Foodservice Forum) will also have a technology focus. Look for a session on mobile payments and one called Six Technologies Successful Restaurateurs Can't Live Without, which will include the panelists from Shake Shack, Magnolia Bakery, The Meatball Shop, and Jack’s Wife Frieda– restaurateurs should all be following these restaurants on their technology platforms.
In addition to delicious samples, exposure to new products, wonderful conversations, and educational opportunities, visitors also look forward to the US Pastry Competition, now in its 25th year at the show. This year's theme is film animation and judges include Florian Bellanger, of Cupcake Wars, and Johnny Iuzzini, the head judge on Bravo’s Top Chef Desserts.
All in all "the economy is bouncing back" and restaurants are seeing growth. Mathews is hearing this echoed in early insight from customers, including restaurateurs looking to expand or make over their menu or décor.
The restaurant show will always be a great place for restaurants to jump-start their growth, Mathews said. No matter how much technological advancement there is in the industry, sometimes "you need to see, feel, and touch" not to mention taste things in person to make the best decision for your restaurant.
The International Restaurant and Foodservice Show of New York will take place from March 2-4 at the Javits Center in New York City. For complete details and to register visit www.internationalrestaurantny.com