National Restaurant Association's 2004 Show Nears Record Numbers, Provides OEMs With Customer Input
May 25, 2004
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The National Restaurant Association's (NRA) 2004 Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show, which took place May 22-25 at McCormick Place in Chicago, IL, U.S. and was attended by APPLIANCE, attracted more than 70,000 attendees from more than 90 countries.

According to the NRA, the show attracted a near-record number of exhibiting companies. There were more than 2,040 exhibitors, of which 650 were new. The association says this is the highest number since 2000.

"Mirroring the positive sales growth and outlook for the industry, the 2004 show [drew] more exhibiting companies than in the past 2 years…," NRA President and CEO Steven C. Anderson said in a written statement. He also said the show has been a "must-attend event" for anyone in or affiliated with the restaurant and hospitality industry.

Jeff Hurst, territory manager for WaterFurnace International Inc. (Ramsey, IL, U.S.), a manufacturer of commercial, residential and industrial geothermal furnaces who exhibited at the show noated that the NRA show is an important trade show to attend. "The show has presented some great opportunities," Mr. Hurst told APPLIANCE. "It provides a great chance to talk to engineers and architects."

Tom Hotard, president of Southbend, a Fuquay-Varina, NC., U.S.-based subsidiary of Elgin, IL ,U.S.-based parent company. The Middleby Corporation, capitalized on the large number of end users that attended the show.

Meeting this many customers not only helps serve as the impetus for business, he said, but it provides companies with a chance to find out what their businesses and potential customers want. "What they want is to be able to configure a kitchen from scratch," he explained in an interview with APPLIANCE.

"They want configurable steamers, a heavy-duty range lineup…with appliances, the end-user is back to driving what we're doing. They are telling us what we need to do."

The past 3 or so years—since the downturn in the economy—end users seemed to have been settling on what was available, Mr. Hotard noted. "They were more complacent," he said. This may have been because the economy was not as good. But now they are more demanding. This is good, though, because we are introducing new products and innovations to meet their needs."

The show featured a keynote address by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright, as well as exhibits by makers of commercial foodservice equipment and food products and services in more than 890 categories. Particular attention was geared toward food items and technology focusing on healthy lifestyles and low-fat and low-carbohydrate products.

Next year's show is slated for May 21-24, 2005 at McCormick Place in Chicago, IL, U.S.

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