Foodservice Equipment Reports

Optimism Pervades Aisles Of The NAFEM Show

One thing was inordinately clear during The NAFEM Show, which concluded last Saturday, Feb. 12: Everyone, and we mean everyone, was extremely optimistic about the show and the equipment and supplies market. As one manufacturers’ rep intoned to us, alluding to the Eagles song, “We haven’t seen that spirit here since…well, maybe 2005.”

Not that most manufacturers, reps, dealers, consultants, service agents and operators we spoke with aren’t realistic. As one manufacturer said, “I think we all just feel the worst is over and that we survived it. It feels good that we can clearly see things turning up, though I don’t suppose any of us expects more than moderate gains this year.”

That sense of “uptick” in the market was validated before the show even started with the release of the MAFSI Business Barometer for the fourth quarter ’10. The 5% jump in the index, the first positive quarterly number since the fourth quarter ’07, was unexpectedly strong. The latest Restaurant Performance Index from the National Restaurant Association also rose strongly in the December survey, released Jan. 31. (See related articles.)

Manufacturers and dealers mentioned a strengthening market for replacement equipment and menu roll-outs that began mid-year ’10. “A lot of chains sat on their hands for a year,” said one chain-oriented dealer. “When sales started improving last year, many started to move. There was a lot of pent-up demand.”

Even the spec markets, which traditionally lag during a recovery and are still quite strained, are seeing more activity. MAFSI reported as part of the Barometer release that reps are seeing more consultant activity. Many consultants told us their clients are asking them to start moving delayed projects forward. One consultant said he’s had four major projects “pop” in just the last month.

All this translated into a flurry of activity on The NAFEM Show floor. The aisles were extremely crowded Thursday and Friday and nearly all exhibitors said it was the most up-beat show in years. “The operators are finally ready to buy,” said one manufacturer. “Thank the good Lord.”

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