By Jim Sullivan, CEO,

Hopefully business is good—but remember “good enough” never is, so I hope you’re planning on being at the NRA Show in Chicago this year. As someone who has both attended (and exhibited) at NRA Show over 16 years, I feel confident that there are at least 10 reasons why you should come to Chicago and attend the Show in 2016. Read ‘em and reap!

11. Get out in front of change. Change with the times or the times will change you. What better place than NRA Show to see the present and the future, one booth and educational session at a time? Be among the first to know what’s coming, what’s over, and how your company can leverage new ideas to build business and sales.

10. Be where your competitors are not. Let’s face it, you’re smarter than they are. That’s why you’re you and they’re them. So if they’re deciding to skip the Show this year, it’s the perfect time for you to swoop in with your team and discover what they didn’t and apply what they’ll remain ignorant of.

9. Be where your competitors are. Don’t let that operator across the street or that chain down the block get a monopoly on great ideas, new product expertise, key insight and thought leadership because they went to the Show this year and you didn’t. Go to Chicago and experience first-hand the newest trends and developments in technology, menus, equipment, operations, social media and ideas. If you don’t go, and they do, what happens if they get better, and you don’t? That would stink.

8. Learn more in 3 days than you could in a year. The breadth of content, topics, and speaker and operator expertise on display via the educational programs at the Show is like a Foodservice University Degree in a Box (without the post-frat party hangover-and-sticky-beer floor!).

7. Get brilliant at the basics. I can’t help but suggest that one of the best educational sessions you could attend at the Show is my program on Sunday, May 22, at 11:30 a.m. called The 7 Essentials: What Wildly Successful Foodservice Brands Do. We’ll detail the commonalities that the most profitable and successful foodservice operators in North America have in common. You don’t have time to research all these best practices, but we do! And we’ll share them all in detail so you can implement them the minute you get back. Learn the best practices in our industry relative to service, selling, hiring, training, marketing, & leadership. Just get there early—it’ll be SRO, bro.

6. Eat. Drink. Be Merry. The Show (and Chicago) is a great place to remind yourself and your team that this industry is fun and frenetic for a reason: it’s the restaurant business! So enjoy yourself. Relax. Have some fun. I’ve traveled around the world—three times over—and I’ll tell you this: Chicago has the best bars and restaurants in the USA. Sorry New York and San Francisco and LA: you’re close, but you’re no Windy City.

5. Interaction in the Aisles. Sometimes the most educational parts of the Show occur in the aisles between the booths or at the bars and receptions when you run into other operators. These side conversations are always chockablock full of insight, ideas and innovation. The informal education--or another operator’s opinion on the industry or economy-- that you get while attending The Show is worth the price of the airfare and hotel.

4. Trick or Tweet? Sure, you could “save money” and instead of being there, follow tweets from the Show instead, “experiencing” it via hashtags, updates, pins, Vines and SnapChats stories on your smartphone, pad or tablet, but…seriously? That’s the same as being in Chicago? At the Show? Sorry, but there is no “virtual” Windy City during the NRA Show. Ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby. Besides, face-to-face is the original social media!

3. Share it while you’re there. On the other hand, once you’re at NRA Show, tweet, post, blog, Instagram, Story and Vine till your thumbs numb. Let the people who had to stay home learn from your experience. Besides, the more you share it, the more you benefit. (If you teach, you learn twice.)

2. Recharge. Rejuvenate. Refocus. NRA Show is the largest business and idea exchange in our industry. And it only happens in one place, one time, each year. It’s borderline overwhelming because of the size, scope and aisle after aisle of idea, innovation and energy. What better way to exhaust yourself than by stimulating your brain and energizing your soul? Refresh that part of yourself that operating a foodservice business wore down the previous 11 months. It’s time to come home to the Show. I’ll see you May 21-24 in Chicago.

1. Four Words: Rush Street after dark.

Jim Sullivan is the author of the bestseller Fundamentals and a long-time attendee of the NRA Show. You can visit his website at and follow him daily on LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter @Sullivision.