Attending restaurant and food industry trade shows is a must for today’s restaurant owner. Gourmet Marketing exhibited at the latest International Restaurant & Foodservice Show in NYC and we saw the how a few days at a convention can open up a restaurant owner’s eyes to vast array of new technologies and services.

No matter how well-informed you are about industry trends and culinary advances, running a restaurant takes almost all of your personal time on weekends, holidays and special occasions. Conventions give you a chance to unwind, meet other restaurant owners, discover new ways to improve your operation and establish yourself or your restaurant as a major player in the industry.

Why Restaurateurs Should Plan to Attend Conventions

Trade shows and conventions give you rare opportunities to meet your fellow restaurateurs and find new products and vendors. You can sell your own industry products, attend practical demonstrations of the latest restaurant technologies and get inspirational ideas. Trade shows include general conventions for restaurants and nightclubs and specific shows that focus on wine, business or kitchen equipment.

The pressure is off unless you decide to market a product, find a franchise or give a speech. You can walk around and quietly observe products, services and demonstrations or take an active role by meeting your peers and networking. The benefits of attending conventions include:

  • Getting chances to ask detailed questions
  • Finding information about buying and selling franchises
  • Experiencing hands-on opportunities to try new technologies
  • Tasting samples of food products
  • Attending seminars and presentations about business practices
  • Expanding your network or resources
  • Understanding new trends
  • Attracting investors for your restaurant or food concept

Top Food Industry Trade Shows and Conventions

Hundreds of trade shows are held every year, so you need to choose the shows that best serve your goals in attending a convention. There are specific shows that focus on every kind of restaurant, hospitality company and food-related business that we recommend you attend, besides of course the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show in NYC. You get a chance to meet hundreds of vendors and see their exhibits. Topics can include anything from website design services to the latest gourmet foods from suppliers. The following are just a few of the most influential and popular trade shows around the country.

National Restaurant Association Show

This convention is held every year, and it will be in Chicago in 2015 from May 16–19. More than 60,000 attendees are expected.

Summer Fancy Food Show

The show is advertised as “North America’s Largest Specialty Food and Beverage Event” and will be held in New York City in 2015 from June 27–30. Exhibits focus on natural, organic and ethnic foods, coffee products, confections, snacks and spices, and you can meet more than 2,400 exhibitors from 50 countries.

Sweets & Snacks Expo

This expo is expected to attract more than 15,000 visitors in 2015 from May 19–21 in Chicago. Most restaurants offer high-quality packaged snacks and sweets as impulse buys at the register or through vending machines. Products include packaged cakes, gum, salty snacks, cookies, granola bars, ice cream, nuts and nutrition bars.

Unified Wine & Grape Symposium

The symposium was held in Sacramento in January of 2015 and will again be held at the Sacramento Convention Center from January 26–28 of 2016. Restaurants looking to build a wine business can gain valuable business and product insights.

Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo

Held in Los Angeles from August 23–25 of 2015, the Western Expo offers the latest menu trends, information about design and décor and exhibits from leading food vendors and equipment manufacturers.

Natural Products Expo East and West

The West Expo occurred in Anaheim, California, on March 5–8 of 2015, and the East Expo will be held in Baltimore from September 17-19. The show is an Ideal convention for restaurateurs who want some ideas for winter and summer menus.

Americas Food and Beverage Show

This show features international exhibitors and attendees representing every aspect of the restaurant business. Located in Miami Beach in 2015, the show is scheduled for October 26–27.

PMA Fresh Summit Produce Marketing Association Convention and Exposition

This year’s event is scheduled for October 23–26 in 2015 in Atlanta. The show focuses on fresh produce, flowers, merchandising, packaging and technology.

National Beer Wholesalers’ Association Annual Convention and Exhibition

This exposition focuses on wholesale beers, distribution, bar development and other issues relevant to the hospitality industry. This year’s 2015 event takes place from October 11-14 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

Justifying Trade Shows Is Easy

Trade shows offer an extraordinary mix of new product ideas, restaurant technology, networking opportunities and ways to promote your brand within the industry. You can learn how to approach franchising your restaurant, which trends are hot across the country and technical information about new cooking techniques and management processes.

It’s not just a coincidence that most major trade shows for the food industry are located in culinary and hospitality hubs around the country. You can also gain lots of region-specific advice by attending geographical food trade shows near your home or in your own city. If you want to increase your exposure to new ideas, consider attending a national event in San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York or a Florida city during winter or spring break. And remember that you’re there to learn and promote your business, so try to resist the hospitality attractions and diversions that make conventions so exciting.