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How to Make the Most of the 2023 National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show

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Zachary Fagenson
NRA Show Floor
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Next to a new restaurant opening its doors for the first time, nothing in the hospitality biz is bigger than the National Restaurant Association’s annual show. Taking place this year from May 20 to 23 at Chicago’s McCormick Place, the show is massive: 600,000 square feet of exhibits, up to 70,000 attendees, and enough food purveyors, restaurant equipment suppliers, mixed drinks, and Chicago hot dogs to fill multiple lifetimes.   

In a few ways, drinking from the proverbial fire hose is a good thing. It’s a delight to wander the aisles, meet new colleagues, learn how technology can bolster your business, and marvel at the show’s sheer size. At the same time, several icons (Benjamin Franklin, John Wooden) said, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” We’re here to help you create a successful plan for the show, and don’t forget to visit us at booth #6258!  

Plan Ahead   

You’re doing it now. Good job! It’s important to get all of the logistics, like registration, sorted out to maximize your time. Also, peruse the floor plan, exhibitor list, and schedule.   

The show opens daily at 9:30 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m. every day other than Tuesday when last call is at 3 p.m. Given the tens of thousands of your friends and colleagues that’ll be there, we’d suggest getting ahead on transportation and reservations. On the happy hour front, we’ve got you. Register here for happy hours we’re hosting at booth #6258 on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday at 3 p.m. with partners SquareSkyTab, and Qu. Be sure to visit us during the show to see everything we’ve got cooking, including R365 Intelligence, and use the link above to join the fun.   

Know Where To Go  

If you’re coming to the show with specific goals, using that floor plan to map out where you want to be is critical. The show is massive and spread across multiple halls. We suggest grouping your must-sees together on specific days to pack in as much as possible. Plus, this gives you plenty of opportunity to sample the food spread across the show, but more on that later.   

Meet The Restaurant Leaders of the Future  

Join Restaurant365 Co-Founder Morgan Harris and Someburros CFO Kevin Kruft on Monday, May 22, at 12:30 p.m. in the North Hall’s Innovation Theater for a look at the ongoing evolution of restaurant managers. Forward-looking companies are transforming task-oriented managers into entrepreneurial, big-picture operators by first providing technology tools to reliably and sustainably bolster the bottom. Join us to learn how companies of all sizes are shaking up this fundamental role and already seeing the benefits.    

Eat & Hydrate  

Last year, there were Chicago hot dogs courtesy of Vienna Beef, ice cream, and all varieties of cheese from Wisconsin. Oven maker Rational dished out steamed bao buns filled with pulled pork and pickles alongside juicy turkey breast with mashed cauliflower. We tried toothsome, freshly extruded pasta courtesy of pasta machine maker Arcobaleno while coffee and tea distributor Tradecraft kept everyone caffeinated with perfect lattes and beautiful teas. Get ready for more!   

Learn Something!  

In addition to individual vendors, you’ll want to attend the numerous workshops led by industry leaders. NRA is offering several educational tracks, including culinary, marketing, operations, technology, beverages, and workforce recruitment and retention. In addition to free sessions with speakers like Union Hospitality Group’s Danny Meyer, there are dedicated workshops with content on each of the show’s first three days covering menu optimization, funding for growth, and branding and digital media.  

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone  

Look for solutions in unexpected places. While tunnel vision might seem like a solution, given the size of the show and the events, keep yourself open to the unexpected. So sure, plan your day, but give yourself time to wander. Restaurants across the industry also have plenty to share with each other, and there’s no doubt leaders from fine dining and QSR would have a lot to share on everything from dedication to quality to kitchen efficiency, both of which can help drive the bottom and create return guests, which is what it’s all about.   

See Us in Person!  

Restaurant365 will be on hand, nearly five dozen team members strong, with product experts and customer success managers to walk you through our latest developments, from business intelligence and automated interview scheduling via Autopilot to retention-driving flexible pay and benefits. Customers can also stop by for one-on-one guidance and best practices for their specific cases in our Solutions Bar. Stop by booth #6258 anytime and again around 3 p.m. for a drink.