Foodservice Equipment Reports

Heard And Seen In The Aisles: Mood At NRA Show Reasonably Upbeat

We’ve just come from the National Restaurant Association’s annual show, which ran Saturday, May 21 through Tuesday, May 24 in Chicago. Most manufacturers and dealers we spoke with during the show reported their sales and the market as a whole continue to recover, though moderately. Most also thought the quantity and quality of attendees at this year’s show was markedly improved from the two past years, when the E&S market downturn was in full force.

The mood level was somewhat higher for chain-oriented manufacturers and dealers, while spec-oriented companies told us their market is still only just beginning to see any recovery. This is typical of the E&S cycle, but the lag between the increase in activity by chains versus smaller operators and the institutional and lodging markets appears to be exaggerated given the depth and length of this downturn.

Consultants we spoke with during the show and at a reception sponsored by FCSI-The Americas told us they are seeing a pronounced increase in project inquiries and that clients in a number of segments are starting to move forward. Still, it can be months or even years before some of the projects head out to bid.

We personally were surprised by the number of chain and foodservice management company attendees we saw during the show. Many of these folks also attended The NAFEM Show in Orlando in February and we thought they might pass on Chicago this year. But as one chain E&S exec told us, the number of projects in his organization has risen dramatically and he felt the opportunity for direct interaction with multiple vendors worth the trip.