10 Guaranteed Headline-Makers from the 2007 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show

(Chicago, Ill.) Set for May 19 through 22 at McCormick Place, the 2007 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show surges with story ideas. But finding specific trends, products or services can be challenging when navigating the nearly 2,200 exhibiting companies on the Show floor.

Among the mouthwatering aromas, energetic equipment demonstrations and colorful displays are intriguing interviews, spectacular photo opportunities and guaranteed headline-makers. We help you identify innovative products and services and trends-in-the-making throughout the eight miles of exhibit space.

Together with the 2007 Show’s Hot New Products Guide, this handout will help you organize Show coverage before, during and after the Show.

Small world, big flavors
The Old World meets the New World – and everything in between – at the NRA Show 2007. Ethnic cuisine and foreign food and beverage companies offer tastes of Brazil and Bavaria, India and Indonesia, North Africa and New Zealand, among other countries. Many of the exhibitors represent their countries’ cuisines in the International Cuisine Pavilion, where they look for partnerships with U.S. distributors, chain restaurants and independent operators. Attendees can spice up their menus with a new Asian-inspired hot sauce from Tabasco; a Japanese ice cream flavored with Okinawan purple sweet potatoes and sweetened rice flour from Bubbies Homemade Ice Cream; or Australian bush foods, such as barramundi and shitake dumplings, from Hoo Roo Outback. “I grew up in the bush eating all this stuff,” says Hoo Roo Director Chris Muir. “It’s great talking point on a menu.”

Farm-fresh ingredients
Chefs increasingly are cooking with organic and locally grown produce, fresh herbs, whole grains and grass-fed and free-range poultry and meat. Those ingredients are among the hottest food items for 2007, according to a National Restaurant Association survey of more than 1,000 chefs. This year’s Show exhibitors have just what chefs are looking for. If organic, whole-wheat pasta is what they want, they can find it at Carla’s Pasta. The family-run South Windsor, Ct., company is introducing precooked, octagon-shaped whole wheat ravioli filled with edamame beans, zucchini, spinach, sweet red peppers, raisins, ricotta and imported Romano cheeses, herbs and spices. For bread, Pittsburgh-based Super Bakery is among the exhibitors offering organic whole-grain bread. La Farge, Wis.-based Organic Valley, a farmer-owned co-op, provides organic milk, cheese, butter, eggs, juice, soy beverages, produce and meats.

Flatbreads: flavorful homes for sandwich fixings
From pita to panini, flatbreads are rising to new heights in U.S. restaurants. They’re among the 20 hottest food items for 2007 as identified in a National Restaurant Association survey of more than 1,000 chefs. Flatbreads are ideal for wraps, pizzas, quesadillas and sandwich carriers, exhibitors say. “Operators are looking for something different,” says Deme Katsulsis, marketing specialist, Grecian Delight Foods, an Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based Mediterranean food manufacturer. “They’re interested in different shapes and flavors and what they can do with it.” Saline, Mich.-based exhibitor Flatout Flatbreads offers multi-grain, light, mini and traditional flatbreads in a variety of flavors, such as sun-dried tomato, Italian herb or Southwest chipotle. Its high-fiber Kidz line includes ghost- and snowmen-shaped flatbread for Halloween and Christmas, says Stacey Marsh, a restaurateur turned baker who opened Flatout in 2000 with her husband Mike. Other flatbreads available at the Show include Indian naan, roti and chapati, as well as lavash and tortillas.

More options for guests with food allergies
More than 11 million Americans have food allergies. Like their friends and relatives, they enjoy dining out. And they’re loyal to operators who recognize the seriousness of food allergies and train staff to respond to guest needs. As restaurateurs familiarize themselves with the eight most common food allergens, they increasingly offer alternatives. Products at this year’s Show include: a peanut-butter alternative from Clown-Gysin Brands of Northbrook, Ill.; a non-dairy, cream substitute from Albany, N.Y.-based Green Rabbit; and a cheese- and pine nut-free pesto from Greek Island Spice of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Clown-Gysin’s Soy Butter can be used in Thai sauces and recipes that call for peanut butter, as well as sandwiches, president Herb Horn says. Mimic Crème, made from cashews and almonds, can be used in sauces, gravy, pastry, confections and frozen desserts, says Green Rabbit spokesman Vincent Colavito, whose sister developed the cream substitute after her husband learned of a dairy allergy.

Germ warfare: Exhibitors arm restaurateurs with tools to fight bacteria, viruses
Recent foodborne illness outbreaks have caused restaurateurs to scrutinize their food-safety practices. Some are embracing produce washes, such as those offered by exhibitor HealthPro Brands of Cincinnati. Others are investigating wall-mounted or tabletop devices that generate ozone-enriched water. Made by Benicia, Calif.-based exhibitor Element Ozone, the devices attach to a sink and dispense ozone-enriched water at the wave of a hand, spokesman Jeremy Kay says. Ozone gas is a powerful, naturally occurring disinfectant that kills viruses, mold, mildew and other germs when mixed or sprayed directly on food or equipment. “It adds an extra barrier whenever you’re rinsing produce with water,” Kay says. Other food safety tools: an all-purpose cleanser made from super ionized alkaline water made by Downey, Calif.-based PH 12.6, and the Kleen-Brush System, a device that connects nailbrushes to sink faucets made by Kitchen Innovations award recipient San Jamar of Elkhorn, Wis.

Takeout, delivery 1-click away
Restaurants thrive on their ability to meet and exceed customer expectations. And this year’s Show exhibitors help operators satisfy customer demand for speed and convenience. According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2007 Restaurant Industry Forecast, 13 percent of consumers have placed online orders at a restaurant. Indianapolis-based Patronpath and Chicago-based QuikOrder are among the 2007 Show exhibitors that offer online ordering systems, which benefit customers and restaurateurs. When orders come in via Internet, they’re more accurate, faster and often 20 percent to 30 percent higher than a phone order, Patronpath President Mark Gallo says. Plus, online ordering reduces labor costs and improves efficiency because employees don’t have to choose between helping a customer in person or answering the phone. QuikOrder, used in more than 5,000 pizza locations, until recently was available only to multi-unit companies. Its new system is available to chains and independent operators.

Secure payment solutions offer peace of mind
When dining out, customers want assurance their credit card and personal information is secure. NRA Show 2007 exhibitors offer several solutions to help safeguard that data. One example is Silver Spring, Md.-based Action Systems Inc. Its Write-on Handheld allows servers to swipe cards at the table. Patrons never lose sight of their cards, so unscrupulous people can’t steal their credit card numbers, says Lisa Wilson, ASI managing vice president. “It’s an added assurance to the customer,” she says. The product also complies with PCI standards set by the credit-card industry.

Fashion and comfort coexist with safe, stylish footwear
Work shoes don’t have to be boring or expensive, as proven by mainstream footwear manufacturers who also supply to the restaurant industry. Popular shoe companies at 2007 Show include Skechers USA-Work of Manhattan Beach, Calif., and Crocs Footwear of Boulder, Colo. Skechers is exhibiting several slip-resistant, safety-toe versions of its sleek, hip sneakers. Made of full-grain leather, Skechers work shoes come in 50 slip-resistant styles, including tie-on, slip-on and chef’s clog variations. Crocs is rolling out new models of its brightly colored, lightweight, non-skid shoes. Among them: a lace-up shoe, a boot and the Bistro, a high-back clog designed especially for back of the house.

Designer décor: Modern tableware, retro aprons
Looks from the past, present and future influence design in restaurant dining rooms. Whether operators want contemporary city chic, traditional elegance or tropical ambience, exhibitors can suit their tastes in tableware, stemware, furnishings and attire. Pedigreed tableware manufacturer Royal Doulton updates its china and stemware with designs from celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. Helen Steele created stylish aprons for her Berkeley, Calif., company Jessie Steele. The designs, inspired by her collection of vintage aprons, reflect the grace and beauty of a forgotten time. And fresh from the New York fashion runways, Tadashi Shoji will introduce his line of designer uniforms.

Green scene: Eco-friendly exhibitors
It’s easier than ever for restaurant operators to go green. The NRA Show features tips for securing sustainable-agriculture products; supplies made from recycled waste and energy-saving equipment. The number of exhibitors in the Green Restaurant Products Pavilion is up 40 percent from 2006, says Green Restaurant Association Founder Michael Oshman. “The industry’s interest in unprecedented,” he says. Operators recognize they can save money and gain loyalty from customers and employees by using green products, as well as stay ahead of legislative challenges, he says. Exhibitor Great Lakes Specialty Supplies crafts outdoor furnishings from “lumber” made with 100 percent recycled plastic, mostly milk jugs and yogurt containers. The Oconomowoc, Wis.-based company has supplied benches for more than 300 Outback Steakhouse locations and waste enclosures for KFC locations worldwide. Other “green” products: a computer-controlled device that converts high volumes of solid food waste into liquid, made by Kitchen Innovations award recipient Bio-Hitech America of Newark, N.J., and Memphis, Tenn.-based CoolCorc’s hot-beverage cup sleeves made from cork recovered from companies that make stoppers for wine bottles.

Now in its 88th year, the annual National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show is the largest single gathering of restaurant, foodservice and lodging professionals the Western Hemisphere. The 2007 Show will be held May 19-22, at McCormick Place in Chicago, Ill. The Show attracts 2,100+ exhibiting companies and 73,000 attendees and visitors from all 50 states and 110 countries. Free, online media registration and more information can be found on the Show Web site at www.restaurant.org/show/media.