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 100th show, but this was my 1st. And as a first timer, I noticed a few things…

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 where pies will be baked using tablets, and placing orders on kiosks will be the norm. Food is literally at your fingertips, in a very predictable way.

Automation is a good thing for most.
From front-end customer interactions to behind the scenes business operations, restaurant automation is bringing together systems and software that are often disjointed. We’ve finally realized that tying these systems together will help the bottom line and more.

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 simpler tasks. One company in particular showcased a robot that self-navigates to attendees with drink refills – something that will allow servers to focus on more meaningful tasks like interacting with customers and making sure they are having 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.

Cannabis and CBD are coming to restaurants near you (if they haven’t already).
Cannabis or CBD-Infused food and drink options are a top trend that a number of restaurants and drink makers have started implementing. The FDA still has not approved the two for use in food and drink however, so publicly traded companies (even Coca-Cola) are eagerly waiting to release their own cannabis infused products.

Delivery services are a growing need for more than just QSR.
The standard Chinese and pizza deliveries have some competition ahead. Third-party delivery services are getting more organized and are pushing to make it easier and more affordable for consumers to place and receive orders at many new restaurants.

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 on the rise as well, 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 simply 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!