The halls are abuzz with networking

Photographs courtesy of the National Restaurant Association

While attending the largest gathering of foodservice and restaurant professionals, don’t be surprised to bump into at least one familiar face while making the rounds of exhibits over the next four days of the National Restaurant Association Show. The Show typically attracts some 65,000 attendees from all 50 U.S. states and scores of overseas countries, all seeking out the latest products, solutions and ideas to improve their businesses.

Many of those attendees are looking to make valuable connections with colleagues and suppliers, too. Even if an attendee is new to foodservice, there are plenty of ways to reconnect with old friends and forge new ties with fellow restaurant owners, managers, franchisees, school foodservice directors, healthcare nutrition managers, educators, consultants, suppliers and others in the industry.

The Culinary Experience Center gives attendees a chance for shared education about new techniques and the latest food and drink trends, all provided by industry experts.

Similarly, attendees can compare notes at product tastings of the FABI Award recipients on Saturday and Sunday on the BAR Stage in Lakeside Center. Check the Show schedule for times.

Impromptu encounters with like-minded professionals abound on the Show floor as well. The National Restaurant Association, to mark the Show’s centennial, will host daily celebrations on the Grand Concourse, providing a fun opening to mix it up with peers and suppliers. Daily sponsored coffee breaks in the Innovation Hub give weary attendees a break to recharge and share some caffeine with fellow attendees.


At the end of the day on Monday, the Show’s biggest networking event happens off site: 100th Anniversary Evening Celebration event at Chicago’s newest, hottest restaurant, TAO. The celebration promises hot music, great food, and specialty cocktails from TAO’s talented mixologists. (Note: Attendees must be 21 or older and purchase a separate ticket to attend the event.)

Speaking of mixologists, a highlight of the evening at TAO is the annual Star of the Bar competition, which will determine the country’s best mixologist. Six regional finalists will come together to vie for top honors.

Two special interest groups have a chance to engage at their own exclusive events. The Young Professionals Party, an invitation-only party recommended for under-40 attendees, kicks off at 7:00 p.m. on Sunday at Point & Feather Cocktail Bar. Similarly, International attendees, who hail from more than 100 countries, can meet, mingle and exchange ideas with their counterparts from other nations at an International Reception on Saturday from 5:00-6:00 p.m.

Even the buses that shuttle attendees and exhibitors to and from McCormick Place present a potential networking bonanza: after all, inspiration can come from anywhere—even a friendly conversation with the person in the next seat over during the 20-minute ride.

This post is sponsored by The National Restaurant Association®