The 2021 National Restaurant Association Show has been canceled

The event won’t be held for the second straight year due to limits on gathering sizes. Organizers will instead provide year-round industry resources.
National Restaurant Association show 2021
Photo by Jonathan Maze

The National Restaurant Association Show is being canceled for a second straight year, as continued limits on gathering sizes have made the convention center that houses the annual exhibition unavailable, show organizer Winsight LLC announced on Friday.

The Show, run by Restaurant Business parent company Winsight, was set to run from May 22-25 at McCormick Place in Chicago.

Show organizers cited limits on gatherings of more than 50 people in the state of Illinois, a limit that is in effect through early June. While the order could be modified before it expires, McCormick Place doesn’t anticipate changes before June that would enable an event the size of the show to occur in May. With no facility available, Winsight opted to cancel the show.

“We understand and share in the disappointment of our attendees, exhibitors and sponsors and acknowledge the critical importance of the Show for the foodservice industry,” Tom Cindric, president of Winsight Exhibitions, said in a statement. “No matter what challenges our industry is facing, our goal is to continue to provide information, resources and connections that will help build the next era of business.

“We look forward to serving the foodservice community through online resources and are committed to planning a 2022 show focused on fueling recovery.”

The Show’s cancellation a year ago was a sign of the depths of the pandemic and a symbolic demonstration of its impact on the restaurant industry—which was hammered last year when states closed dining rooms to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The Show’s cancellation this year is indicative of the challenges with the recovery. While limits have been eased on restaurants and the industry is rebounding, major events are still restricted. Such events have historically been a major source of revenue to restaurants near event centers.

And the show itself is a massive gathering of operators and suppliers showing off the current trends in an industry that employs more than 10 million people from some 1 million locations.

Organizers of the National Restaurant Association Show have developed an extensive collection of resources, including live Q&As with leading experts, panel discussions and webinars, that are available free of charge.

A variety of recorded content on the state of the industry and future projections, consumer trends, operational innovations and more is available online, and new assets will be made available throughout the year. Organizers have also created The Show To Go, a free digital marketplace to connect operators with suppliers.

And there is also next year’s Show. “While we can’t do business or learn together in-person just yet, we are dedicated to helping our industry through this exceptionally challenging time,” Cindric said. “And when we reunite next year, May 21-24, 2022, it will be in an environment unlike any of us have ever experienced—an environment filled with renewed energy and unmatched connection as the restaurant community seeks new products, concepts, innovation and thought leadership to reimagine foodservice.”

Winsight, a business-to-business information, events and market intelligence company, owns and operates the National Restaurant Association Show in partnership with the trade group the National Restaurant Association.

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content


4 things we learned in a wild week for restaurant tech

Tech Check: If you blinked, you may have missed three funding rounds, two acquisitions, a “never-before-seen” new product and a bold executive poaching. Let’s get caught up.


High restaurant menu prices mean high customer expectations

The Bottom Line: Diners are paying high prices to eat out at all kinds of restaurants these days. And they’re picking winners and losers.


Podcast transcript: Puttshack CEO Joe Vrankin

A Deeper Dive: The chief executive of the minigolf-centric restaurant chain discusses how the chain focuses on higher-quality games and food.


More from our partners