Industry veterans Scott Redler and Mike Hickey, co-chairs of this year’s 2019 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show, have both been to this rodeo more than a few times. Redler, co-founder and COO of Wichita, Kan.-based Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers; and Hickey, executive vice president of Minneapolis-based Ecolab, offer the skinny on how to make the most of the experience.
Any advice for a first-timer?
Scott Redler: I think the most important thing is to have an open mind and spend time with vendors when it is applicable. We’ve discovered many systems and equipment innovations that have saved our company thousands of dollars by spending time and asking questions at the appropriate booths. I also believe you should have a systematic approach to walking the Show so that you don’t miss anything. Last year, one of the last booths we visited had the best payoff for our company.
Mike Hickey: There is so much you can get done and so many things you can see if you participate in the four days of the Show. Are there specific products you want to see, seminars you want to participate in, events you want to attend? Map that out, and you’ll have a better experience.
What are you most looking forward to this year?
SR: The programs, speakers and seminars seem to get better every year. It is always great to hear industry insights from an expert. I would encourage attendees to take the time to investigate the choices. Download the Show app to your phone. It will help you plan your time and navigate the venue.
MH: I like the Innovation Hub—you get to see what’s coming next, and it helps you think about the future. I also like the TECH Pavilion; so much of what we all do today involves some form of technology.
What do you consider must-see/must-do while here?
MH: Walking the Show is the whole point of attending. I also think getting involved in events that happen around the Show is important. This year is a special year because of the 100th anniversary, so it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be involved in events at the Show and learn more about the Association.
Aside from the Show, any chance you get a chance to see the Cubs or White Sox play is great, walking the Magnificent Mile is always fun, and, of course, there are many great restaurants here.
SR: My number one must-do is to eat a Vienna Beef Chicago Dog! It’s always a great pick-me-up as we walk miles and miles. Chicago is a wonderful restaurant town and enjoying the evenings in Chicago with incredible dining, sports, theater or museums is part of the experience. Consider the architectural river cruise if you haven’t done it.
What’s your favorite aspect of the Show?
SR: I view the Show as a classroom, and each year I learn something new. It’s like getting your master’s degree in hospitality as you wander the aisles.
MH: The coming together of the industry—the suppliers, operators and distributors—at the same time every year is very unique.
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