By Caleb Sandvold

May 23, 2019

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A Few Takeaways from NRA 2019

It might’ve been the National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) 100th show, but it was the first I attended. And as a first-timer, I noticed a few things…

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First, technology is advancing rapidly in the restaurant industry.

Gone are the days of long wait times, low-quality food with limited choices, and clunky processes. Now are the times when placing orders on kiosks will be the norm. Food is literally a few taps of the fingertips away.

Second, automation is here and is a good thing for most.

From front-end customer interactions to behind-the-scenes business operations, restaurant automation often combines disjointed systems and software. We’ve finally realized that joining these systems together will help the bottom line, and so much more.

Third, robots can make sushi!

Need I say more? The once-popular 1960’s primetime cartoon The Jetsons got it right. They foresaw robots like Rosie as a lovable and normalized way to complete simple tasks. One company, in particular, showcased a robot that self-navigates to customers with drink refills – something that will allow servers to focus on more meaningful tasks like interacting with customers and ensuring they have an enjoyable experience. The Jetsons was supposedly set in the year 2062, so by my calculations, we beat The Jetson’s prediction of useful robotics by 43 years.

Fourth, cannabis and CBD are coming to restaurants near you (if they haven’t already).

Cannabis, or CBD-Infused food and drink options have become a top trend for many restaurants and pubs. As the FDA has not yet approved the two for use in food and drink, publicly traded companies (e.g., Coca-Cola) need to wait before they can creat and sell their own cannabis-infused products.

Fifth, delivery services are a growing need for more than just Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs).

Restaurants offering their own delivery services have some competition ahead. Third-party delivery services are getting more organized and are pushing to make it easier for consumers to place and receive orders at nearly any restaurant of their choosing.

Sixth, ethically and environmentally responsible products are on the rise.

Plant-based meats and proteins are popular items that have advanced quickly – including meatless burgers (that are pretty darn close to the real deal!). Not only that, but environmentally friendly products are also on the rise, from compostable straws to sustainable packaging materials, to edible spoons.

The centennial NRA was filled with loads of innovative technology and products for every type of consumer, which gave me a taste of what I can expect for the future of dining. All this to say, one day at NRA was not long enough. And I never thought I’d say this… but there were almost too many free samples – even for me.

That’s a wrap on NRA – see ya next year!