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Top 3 Trends from the 2024 National Restaurant Show

BY: RENEE MILLER, DIRECTOR OF MARKETING

The Restaurant Technologies team recently returned from the 2024 National Restaurant Show in Chicago. With over 50,000 attendees, it’s one of our favorite events of the year. We had a lot of great conversations with current and prospective customers at our booth, hosted a couple of fantastic happy hours, and enjoyed attending insightful programming relating to the industry.

Throughout our time at the event, three prominent themes dominated most conversations. And lucky for us, the automated solutions from Restaurant Technologies connect to each of the trends, generating significant interest from attendees.

  1. Technology offerings proliferate as restaurants look for new ways to be more efficient.
    • California’s new minimum wage increase for fast food staff was top of mind as suppliers emphasized labor efficiency, especially on the tech side. The session, “Unveiling Hospitality’s Labor Landscape: Navigating Turnover, Hiring, and Wage Dynamics,” explored the challenges restaurant operators face in managing their workforce today.
    • AI and automation (including robots!) were everywhere, with even Ecolab touting their automated “frying” hand. In addition, many of the POS systems and technology platforms were discussing AI and its role in helping improve restaurant efficiency.
  2. Sustainability continues to stay top of mind.
    • The trade show floor was filled with numerous sustainable packaging suppliers promoting their eco-friendly solutions.
    • Food waste reduction was another major topic throughout the conference. For instance, the session, “Less Waste, More Revenue: The Key to Unlocking Profitability Through Sustainability,” highlighted how technology can combat food waste. The talk explored how apps like Too Good To Go can improve efficiency to lessen waste or help restaurants profit from surplus food, ultimately reducing overall waste.
    • Brands like MetaFoodX combine the tech/AI trend with sustainability to create an AI-driven company that allows operators to track their real-time food consumption and waste. With an AI scanner, operators scan menu items, check for food safety compliance, and predict ingredient needs based on machine learning from historical data, guest count, and weather for forecast efficiency.
  3. Focus on staff.
    The human element remains central to the food service industry, and the conference addressed critical staffing challenges. The session, “Refreshing the Workforce: Overcoming Labor Challenges,” emphasized that operators need to go beyond just improving efficiency. They must also find innovative ways to connect and engage with their employees.
    • A panel discussion highlighted an alarming statistic: employee engagement is at an 11-year low. The solution? Investing in your workforce. Studies show that happy employees lead to lower turnover, better customer experiences, and ultimately, increased revenue. But more importantly, it’s simply the right thing to do. Businesses need to develop genuine strategies to build a meaningful company culture that resonates with both their brand identity and their employees’ daily lives.

The restaurant industry is a lesson in collaboration.  From staffing to minimizing food waste, it was invigorating to see industry peers working together to solve major issues. Our team at Restaurant Technologies is proud to be at the forefront of using technology and automation to create sustainable solutions that address all three key trends identified at NRA 2024: labor management, food waste reduction, and employee engagement. Ultimately, these solutions contribute to not only a more efficient industry, but also a more motivated workforce and a positive dining experience for customers.

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