June 9, 2023
On the weekend of May 20th, Ace’s CEO Tor Newman flew to Chicago to attend the 2023 National Restaurant Association Show.
“I’ve been in the food industry for so long,” says Tor, “but this was my first National Restaurant Association Show.” This is partly because, as recently as five years ago, a lot of Ace’s vendor-partners weren’t attending this national show because it focuses on the foodservice side of the industry. But in recent years, the demographics have been shifting. “Now there were maybe 60+ of our vendors there, many of them for the first time.”
Tor noted that this show was more multi-dimensional than the ones he usually attends. “The service aspect of the show plays a big part,” says Tor, adding that out of the three large halls, only two had food and beverage exhibitors. The third was completely devoted to equipment, glassware, and disposables. “It’s nothing new, but I am heartened to see more and more compostable and earth-friendly options when it comes to takeout disposables.”
In addition to the opportunity to chat with vendors, the show also offers a smattering of live sessions. The line-up this year included expert-led educational talks, celebrated speakers, demos by chefs and mixologists, and much more. The deep-dive workshops ranged far and wide, covering everything from menu optimization, dynamic pricing strategies, and creating a unique beverage program, to branding and digital media.
The keynote address, delivered by Union Square Hospitality Group’s Danny Meyer and Slutty Vegan’s Pinky Cole, centered on hospitality, breaking rules, turning dreams into profit, and creating strategies that will lead to foolproof business plans. This talk—and all sessions and events at the show—were delivered with the goal of inspiring attendees and helping them develop strategies that will facilitate growth.
When it came to live demos, Tor was especially inspired by Chef Lauren Von Der Pool. The “Queen of Green” and former personal chef to Stevie Wonder, Serena and Venue Williams, and Patti Labelle talked about organic living and plant-based cuisine. “It’s great to see someone preaching health and love at the mainstream restaurant event of the year,” says Tor. “She talked about cleansing and healing with love and food, such as spirulina, maca, and burdock.”
“The convention center is in a really pretty part of Chicago, which makes a full day of being there even better,” said Tor, adding that it was a joy to catch up with longtime Ace vendor-partners Miso Master and Blackbird. Both vendors were displaying their products—along with Ace’s name—at their booths. He also visited Upton’s Naturals, Once Again, Temptations Ice Cream, and a whole host of others, including Zero Egg, pictured above.
“This show is important for any restaurant owner, no matter the size of their endeavor, to see at least once,” said Tor. “There is just so much information to absorb. Next year we should have a team of people here to cover the whole event.”
If you couldn’t attend this year’s National Restaurant Show, there’s always next year! We hope to see you there!