A trip to Orlando in the middle of February? It’s no surprise that more than 20,000 people attended this year’s annual NAFEM show at the Orange County Convention Center. For those who did, there was plenty to see as more than 600 companies showed off their latest innovations.
Here are a few things from the show that stood out to us.
From a machine that can produce 840 corn tortillas in a single hour to a portable cleaning system that reduces necessary clean-up by as much as 66 percent, efficiency tools were in high demand at NAFEM. The show also saw a multi-function oven capable of cooking everything from salmon to cookies without transferring flavors. That’s great news for all of us that dislike salmon-flavored cookies.
No, we don’t mean mobile of the phone variety — though that’s sure to remain big as well. At NAFEM, mobile eateries grabbed our attention. Vehicles offering everything from beverages and cocktails to battery-powered pizza ovens made the event feel like an auto show at times, but we were excited by what we saw. It’s interesting to see how our industry continues to work both to draw guests in as well as to go directly to them.
With a national unemployment rate of 4 percent, it’s not surprising that many restaurateurs are looking for ways to deliver results without hiring additional staff. Companies at the show delivered, using their booths to feature ovens with pre-programmed recipes, robotic prep chefs and consumer-facing kiosks that allow retailers to customize them by inserting their own screens.
Internet of everything
The internet of things may as well have been the internet of everywhere at NAFEM. From ovens and coffee machines to refrigerators and deep fryers, restaurateurs have numerous options now to install smart devices in their businesses. Capable of communicating through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, the data these units generate is almost overpowering. We predict tools to fully capitalize on all of this information may be hot items next year.
The space case
Bigger is better, except in the foodservice industry where restaurateurs are constantly tasked with making the most of their ever-shrinking kitchens. NAFEM provided solutions, however, as companies showed off myriad tools capable of tackling multiple jobs in less space. Our favorite may have been the ventless ovens that can be situated underneath your prep tables and are capable of transforming grease and other less-than-savory compounds into carbon dioxide molecules and water. We have to admit, that’s pretty cool.
So much to see
Orlando is a wonderful city to visit, but what took place inside the Orange County Convention Center truly captured our imagination. There was so much to see at NAFEM this year. We can’t wait for it to make its way into the real world and see what you can do with it in your foodservice businesses.