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. Go to the Show and experience first-hand the newest trends and developments in menus, equipment, operations, social media and ideas. If you don’t go, and they do, what happens if you don’t get better, and they do? Won’t that bug you to no end?
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 and discover what they didn’t and learn what they stayed 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 the NRA Show to see the future, one booth at a time? Be among the first to see what’s coming and how your company can leverage that opportunity 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 NRA 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 overlook suggesting that one of the best programs you could attend at the NRA Show is my session on Fundamentals: 9 ways to Be Brilliant at the New Basics. Monday May 7 10 a.m. Learn the best practices of over 250 high-performing foodservice companies in just 90 minutes. Get there early, it’ll be SRO bro.
5. Eat. Drink. Be Merry. The NRA 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 no Chicago.
4. Action in the Aisles. Sometimes the most educational parts of the NRA 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 gets while walking through the NRA 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 NRA Show instead, “experiencing” it via hashtags and updates and postings and Pin Boards online or on your smartphone or iPad, but…seriously? That’s the same as being in Chicago? At the NRA Show? Sorry, but there is no “virtual” Windy City during the NRA Show. Ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby.
2. Share it while you’re there. On the other hand, once you’re at the NRA Show, tweet, post, blog and pin till your thumbs turn blue. Let the people who had to stay home learn from your experience and besides, the better 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 bring pen and paper because you’re going to learn at every turn.
1. Recharge. Rejuvenate. Refocus. The 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. But what better way to exhaust yourself than by stimulating your brain and energizing your soul. Refresh that part of yourself that the economy wore down the last three years.
It’s time to come home to the NRA Show. I’ll see you May 5-8 in Chicago.If you haven't already registered for NRA Show 2012, go to www.restaurant.org/show. In addition to Twitter @NRAShow and Facebook, you can also join the NRA Show on Linkedin and YouTube.
Jim Sullivan is the CEO & Founder of Sullivision.com and a long-time attendee of the NRA Show. You can visit his Website at www.sullivision.com.