My assignment was to explore, and write about, my experiences at the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show this year. As usual, the days are so filled with walking the show, attending press conferences and meetings, and special events, that I find it hard to have time to actually write! But I’ve had some exceptional experiences and met some extraordinary people this year.
My first official meeting was with DSR Dave and Bill Hornung of the Association for Foodservice Distributor Representatives. We discussed ways manufacturers can tap into the association and its distributor resources and the foodservice industry in general. No doom and gloom with these guys. Very pragmatic, but true to form, always upbeat and working to connect people with the information and resources they need to serve their customers. AFDR offers DSR members (who join for free, with administrative costs covered by sponsor partners) a connection point, training resources and a forum for sharing best practices in distribution.
I also had the opportunity to meet Dave’s son, Joe Miesse, who follows in his father’s footsteps and as a DSR for U.S. Foodservice, serving the Chicagoland area. It was great sitting down with these experts, getting their takes on where we’re headed, and sharing that passion for the industry we all seem to share.
Never one to pass on a great event, I next attended the Oregon in Chicago party hosted at Chicago’s Art Institute by Truitt Bros. I’m a big fan of Oregon and this party simply makes you wish you were there. From the environmentally friendly dÃ©cor, to the Oregon wines, to the wonderful food, it was an oasis after spending the day walking the show. I have to admit, that I went back three times to sample the chili because it tasted so good. Another fav was the smoothies made with fruit from the Sabroso Company, another Oregon company. This event has become quite the buzz at the show and it really captures the essence of the state or Oregon and some of its leading companies and brands.
The evening’s final event was dinner with the board of directors for the Fast Casual Alliance. This organization, comprised of leading fast-casual executives, formed to exchange ideas, share solutions and network within this dynamic segment. The group is led by Louis Basile, Jr., of Wildflower Bread Company and I had the pleasure of sitting across from him and George Green, vice president of Bread & Company. Flanked by Paul Barron, publisher of Fast Casual and Michael Fagen of Duke Marketing, I had prime position in mid-table to hear and engage in conversations on both sides and was amazed by the information exchanges taking place. I’m convinced the success of this growing segment is in large part due to this atmosphere and commitment to helping each other succeed.
So many times, we hold our knowledge close, afraid that sharing with others will diminish our own brand. FCA members, or at least the board, have flipped the script on this. All around me, these executives were talking about what works for them, challenges and common solutions. It was truly inspiring to me as an outsider and I appreciate being allowed to listen and learn. Not to mention that dinner at the host venue, onesixtyblue, was simply outstanding.
_This first person review submitted by John Scroggins