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2024 National Restaurant Association Show At-a-Glance

We recently had the pleasure of attending the 2024 National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show at McCormick Place in Chicago. This expansive event annually attracts foodservice industry professionals from across the United States and around the globe, providing an invaluable opportunity to network and see what’s happening in foodservice. This year, we were delighted to reconnect with long-time industry colleagues and forge new connections.   


After immersing ourselves in the vibrant displays, tantalizing smells, and delicious tastes on the show floor, we identified a couple emerging trends and key themes. 



AI and automation solutions dominated even more than last year, but in a different way. Yes, there were still burger-flipping robotic arms and automated sushi makers, and even meal delivery robots. But more prevalent were so-called invisible tech solutions to enhance convenience and allow businesses to benefit in areas such as staffing and how data is collected and used. Key areas include:  

  • Solutions designed to alleviate labor challenges like AI-driven voice assistants.  

  • Emphasis on cost-saving technologies.  

  • Extensive data collection tools.  

  • Integration of advanced tech for operational efficiency.  

  • POS Systems encouraging automation and data collection.  

  • Automated kitchen equipment to decrease labor and deliver a consistent product.  



The foodservice industry has worked hard to generate more sustainable solutions, but this year at the show, sustainability was a much bigger part of the spotlight as evidenced by the volume of exhibitors touting eco-friendly products. Most of these exhibitors were packaging companies promoting features like compostable, recyclable, PFAS-free, or aqueous coating. This is also being driven by:  

  • Increased regulations.   

  • Elevated delivery and takeout traffic.  

  • More complex packaging design needs due to the above.  


Other Key Trends:  

We saw an overarching focus on flavor experiences, with restaurants embracing global flavors, playful plating, and health-conscious options to captivate the palettes of consumers. Additionally, with the change in consumer lifestyles since the pandemic there’s been a huge increase in snacking as an alternative to meals, and so we saw a variety of convenient and indulgent snack options on display from vendors hungry to satisfy this new market.  


As we look forward to the future, it is clear that these trends will continue to drive innovation and growth in the foodservice industry. We are excited to see how these developments will unfold and shape the culinary landscape in the coming years. 



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