Come see Ottimate at our booth
Come see Ottimate at our booth
March 7, 2024

Your Go-To Guide to the National Restaurant Association Show

by The Ottimate Editorial Team

The National Restaurant Association Show 2024 will be held at McCormick Place, Chicago, IL from May 18 –  21, 2024.

First time heading to the National Restaurant Association Show? No worries, we’ve got your back!

We’re here to help you navigate this culinary extravaganza. Get ready to dive into a world buzzing with the freshest trends, groundbreaking products, and food and drinks that will make your taste buds dance. This show isn’t just an event, it’s your golden ticket to transforming your restaurant into a global phenomenon. Can’t wait to discover more? We’ve got a treasure trove of insights waiting for you.

This guide covers everything you need to know to about the National Restaurant Association Show, including:

  • Why Attend?
  • Things To Do at the National Restaurant Association Show
  • 5 Things To Know Before You Go 
  • The Importance of Technology at the National Restaurant Association Show

Why Attend the National Restaurant Association Show

If you’re in the restaurant industry, the real question is: why would you consider missing it?

The National Restaurant Association Show is the most anticipated annual event for foodservice professionals in the Western Hemisphere. It’s your golden opportunity to discover, learn, innovate, and gather inspiration to propel your restaurant business to unprecedented success.You’ll leave well equipped with the tools and knowledge to thrive in today’s competitive landscape.

The show allows you to soak up innovative knowledge and get your hands on tools to help your restaurant thrive in today’s market.  

With participants from all 50 states and over 112 countries, the National Restaurant Association Show is a unique blend of ideas and experiences for forward-thinking restaurateurs.

Brimming with exhibitors, interactive workshops, and enlightening educational sessions, you’ll have the opportunity to:

  • Discover hot new products
  • Test-drive new equipment
  • Create business connections with suppliers
  • Build peer-to-peer relationships
  • Attend educational sessions led by experts
  • Tap into the latest trends in the restaurant industry
Photo of expansive conference hall full of booths and people.
Photo courtesy of

Things To Do at the National Restaurant Association Show

Photo listing things to do at The National Restaurant Association Show.

The National Restaurant Association Show, with its impressive lineup of over 1,800 exhibitors, is a sensory feast. As you explore the vibrant array of booths, engage in insightful discussions with suppliers, and savor a culinary journey, you’ll also broaden your horizons. You can attend presentations, witness live demos, participate in workshops, and absorb valuable insights from the sessions.

The show serves as a magnet for the brightest minds in the industry, offering fresh and innovative perspectives on all facets of the restaurant business

Here are some key takeaways you can look forward to:

  • Signature Presentation: The 2024 National Restaurant Show Keynote will spotlight esteemed chef and philanthropist, José Andrés. A culinary and humanitarian pioneer, Andrés will discuss the transformative power of food and its intersection with his philanthropic endeavors. Drawing from his experience as the founder of World Central Kitchen, Andrés will share insights on sustainable food systems, community empowerment, and the importance of giving back. His passion for food as a tool for social impact aims to inspire change. This session promises to be a highlight of the show!
  • Celebrity demo events: Experience the mastery of top chefs and industry leaders as they demonstrate techniques, discuss major industry issues, and reveal the latest food and beverage trends.
  • Workshops: Expert-led workshops providing high-value education on today’s hot topics. There are three workshops to choose from, but they do require advanced registration. Check out the event’s workshop page for more info.
  • Exhibitors: There are over 1,800 exhibitors ready to talk with you. Demo their products, test their equipment, and sample the latest cuisine and cocktails!
  • Educational sessions: Soak up all the knowledge you can during these exclusive enhanced learning experiences.‍

2024 Educational Session Topics*

Culinary Insights: Stay updated with the latest trends in food and beverages.

Operations Solutions: Uncover strategies to enhance operational efficiency.

The New Consumer: Understand how to connect with and engage the modern consumer.

Technology Strategies: Learn how technology can revolutionize your business. Ottimate will provide insights into current automation tools and trends.

Trends in Adult Beverages: Discover how to optimize your beverage program.

Wellness: Learn how to prioritize health and wellness in your workplace.

Workforce Recruitment & Development: Develop strategies to fortify your workforce.

Check out all the educational session info on The Restaurant Show website.

5 Things To Know Before You Go to the National Restaurant Association Show

Photo listing 5 things to do prior to attending The National Restaurant Association Show.

Think of the National Restaurant Association Show as a strategic investment in your restaurant’s growth and development. Knowing how to plan and what to expect will help you maximize your return on investment.

1. Set Your Priorities

The scale of the National Restaurant Association Show is truly colossal, making it impossible for a single person to cover every inch. According to the organizers, it would take two full days just to traverse the exhibition floor.

Before setting foot in Chicago, it’s crucial to identify your key areas of interest at the show. What do you want to explore? What knowledge do you seek? Once you’ve determined your priorities, consult the schedule and floor plan to strategize your visit. This pre-show preparation will ensure you make the most of your time at the National Restaurant Association Show.

Strategic planning is key to maintaining focus amidst the sensory overload of the show. Think of this event as the Disneyland for restaurateurs — a place of endless possibilities and exciting discoveries.

However, amidst the allure of the new and shiny, it’s important not to lose sight of your primary objectives. You wouldn’t want to miss out on the sessions or products that could be game-changers for your business. So, plan wisely and make the most of this extraordinary experience.

2. Schedule Time To Grab Your Badge

Gone are the days of advanced badge mailing for the show. Now, badges must be collected in person at the venue. This could mean spending some time in line. So, factor this into your schedule to ensure a smooth start to your National Restaurant Association Show experience. 

Being prepared is half the battle won!

3. Plan, Plan, Plan

Start by studying the show schedule and crafting your itinerary. Identify the demos, sessions, and exhibitors that are non-negotiable for you, and let these be the pillars that you build the rest of your schedule around.

Don’t forget to familiarize yourself with the floor plan while planning. The venue is vast, and ensuring you can navigate to your points of interest will help you manage your time with ease.

If you’re attending the show as part of a team, remember the best strategy is to divide and conquer. Consider assigning different sessions and demos to various team members. This way, you can collectively cover more ground and extract the maximum value from your show experience.

4. Look After Yourself

Navigating through four days and 43,000 square feet of non-stop activity, endless educational sessions, and demos can be quite a marathon. To ensure you stay on top of your game and truly enjoy the show, here are five survival tips:

  1. Comfort is Key: Opt for supportive, well-worn shoes and comfortable attire. You’ll be on your feet a lot!
  2. Dress Smart: With the crowd comes warmth. Layer your clothing to easily adjust to the fluctuating temperatures.
  3. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate: Carry a reusable water bottle. While culinary delights abound, water stations may not be as plentiful.
  4. Fuel Up: Amidst the food frenzy, don’t forget to schedule actual meal times. It’s also a great chance to regroup with your team, reflect, and recharge.
  5. Reflect and Absorb: The information overload can be overwhelming. Allocate time to review your session notes and consolidate your thoughts and ideas.

Remember, this show is a marathon, not a sprint. Plan wisely to make the most of it!

5. Be Flexible

While meticulous planning is key, maintaining a degree of flexibility can truly enrich your show experience. Keep your well-crafted plan at hand, but also allow yourself to be in the moment.

Start your morning with a refreshing cup of coffee or end your day with an evening cocktail before you embark on your exhibitor exploration. Be spontaneous and open to joining impromptu sessions that pique your interest. Don’t forget to sign up for post-show parties and events — these are often advertised by exhibitors and present fantastic networking opportunities.

Remember, some of the most fruitful networking can occur unexpectedly, so stay adaptable and ready to seize every opportunity to build relationships. After all, the National Restaurant Association Show is not just about learning; it’s about connecting and growing. So, let’s make the most of it!

The Importance of Technology at the National Restaurant Association Show

Graphic displaying how 77% of restaurants have leveraged technology to increase efficiencies.

Technology is undeniably steering the course of the restaurant industry. A compelling report from Restaurant Technology News reveals that a resounding 77 percent of restaurateurs experienced increased efficiency, less pressure on staff, reduced costs, and more revenue.

The Tech Pavilion at the Show is a veritable goldmine of tech solutions, designed to boost efficiency and deliver significant cost savings.

Among these is Ottimate, a groundbreaking solution that promises to streamline your account payable operations. We look forward to seeing you at the upcoming National Restaurant Association Show, and are eager to discuss how Ottimate can revolutionize your AP process — and set your restaurant on the path to success.

Now You Know…

The National Restaurant Association Show isn’t just any show — it’s the cornerstone event in the restaurant industry. Choosing to attend is a strategic step towards propelling your restaurant business to new heights.

This event is a catalyst for creativity, particularly if you’re equipped with the know-how to maximize your experience. Network, absorb new knowledge, stay adaptable and hydrated, and ensure you take comprehensive notes.

Upon your return, be sure to schedule a post-show debrief with your team and share the wealth of ideas you’ve gathered. This allows those who couldn’t attend to also benefit from your time and energy invested at the show.

Eager for The Restaurant Show? We share your excitement! And if you’re interested in exploring more about Ottimate before the next show, there’s no need to wait. You can schedule a demo today!

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