March 01, 2011
The NAFEM Show officially began for me Mon., Feb. 7, when my good friend Carla Strickland, executive director at the Commercial Food Equipment Service Association, offered me a drink ticket at the group’s opening reception. It officially ended with me passing through the Hilton Hotel, adjacent to the Orange County Convention Center, and my good friend Rob Moak of TriMark/Gill Marketing offered to buy me a beer. In between, and unrelated to cocktails, I can honestly say I was high nearly every minute purely on the spirit of the Orlando show. Virtually everyone exuded optimism. I haven’t seen people in this industry this upbeat in years. It was a wonderful experience.
Lots of things contributed to the mood. Also on Monday, the Manufacturers’ Agents Association for the Foodservice Industry released its fourth quarter 2010 Business Barometer. The surveyed reps reported sales rose a robust 5% versus fourth quarter ’09, a much stronger reading than any of us expected and the first positive number in three years. As rep Mike Posternak, who does the commentary for the Barometer for MAFSI e-mailed me: “Great MBB!” Sure was, and scores of people mentioned it on the show floor.
All the meetings I attended were jammed and lively. The Foodservice Consultants Society Int’l hosted a couple of panels Wednesday afternoon at the Convention Center. It was standing room only. We saw scores of our friends from Europe, Asia and the Americas at NAFEM’s Global Networking event Wednesday night. I attended a Halton event at House of Blues later that night and got to see consultants Bill Caruso and Chape Whitman and rep Lars Noren wail on guitars and mandolin as part of an all-industry jam.
When the show opened Thursday at 10 a.m., it was a bit quiet for the first hour, but then—boom. It suddenly was a mob scene. Getting around the aisles became difficult, attendees were cheek-by-jowl in some of the booths and our poor editors didn’t have a chance of finding someone to show them a new product. It continued on like that all day.
Thursday evening, the receptions started. I was slated to attend seven different receptions between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Three of those involved significant anniversaries: Tomlinson and Franke turn 100 this year, and Fisher Mfg. is 75. I made five of the seven and made it home alive.
The beat went on Friday and the morning of Saturday. I laughed with the Ace Mart folks about their day-glo colored polo shirts and talked with Scott Palmer of the Unified Foodservice Purchasing Co-Op about plans for our next MUFES meeting January 2012. I was thrilled to see John Nackley and Peter Nordell honored with NAFEM’s highest awards at the All-Industry Banquet Friday night.
By the time thing slowed after lunch Saturday, and the exhibitors could give us a few minutes, everyone, and I mean everyone, was ecstatic about the show, the mood of the industry and their own prospects for the coming year. It sure was fun.