By Jim Sullivan, CEO

As someone who has both attended and vended at NRA Show® over the last 15 years I feel confident that there are at least 10 reasons why you should come to Chicago and attend the Show this year…

10. Be where your competitors are. Don’t let that guy across the street or that chain down the block get a monopoly on good ideas, new product expertise and thought leadership because they went to the Show 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.

9. 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 learn what they’ll remain ignorant of.

8. Get out in front of change. Two things to remember about customers and change: don’t get too far ahead of your customers or you’ll confuse them. Don’t get too far behind them or you’ll lose them. 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 see what’s coming and how your company can leverage new ideas to build business and sales.

7. Learn more in 4 days than you could in a year. The breadth of content 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-sticky-beer floor!)

6. 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 called Foodservice 2020: Three Smart Strategies to Get the Future Right. We’ll examine all the key trends relative to technology, hiring, training, marketing, service, selling and food & beverage in the next 5 years. But get there early, it’ll be SRO, bro.

5. 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.

4. Action 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.

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

2. Share it while you’re there. On the other hand, once you’re at the Show, tweet, post, blog, Instagram and Vine till your thumbs turn blue. Let the people who had to stay home learn from your experience and besides, the more you share it, the more you benefit. (If you teach, you learn twice.) And if you’re a Digital Alien who thinks a “tweet” is something that Barbara Walters gives her dog, well then simply bring pen and paper because you’re going to learn at every turn.

1. Recharge. Rejuvenate. Refocus. The 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. But 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 16-19 in Chicago.


Jim Sullivan is the CEO & Founder of and a long-time attendee of the National Restaurant Show. You can visit his website at and follow him daily on Twitter @Sullivision.