When your job involves foodservice equipment and kitchen design, there’s an upside that comes with the territory: visiting restaurants to track the latest trends and applications. Chicago is a great lab for seeing new and custom equipment in action—and the NRA Show is the ideal time to combine scouting, networking and a little bit of fun. Here are our recommendations for new places to check out while you’re in town that showcase designs and developments making waves in the E&S industry.
1 W. Division St. (Gold Coast neighborhood), 200 N.
Michigan Ave. and 46 E. Chicago Ave.
There are eight locations of this fast-casual steamed Asian buns concept by Lettuce Entertain You in Chicago (including one at O’Hare airport). Focus your visit on one of the chain’s three automated concepts, where guests place their orders at kiosks and retrieve their meals from high-tech cubbies—a system Wow Bao contracted from tech provider and restaurant brand Eatsa.
One of the few cities to host Amazon's frictionless convenience store, Chicago has four locations now open offering breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Two of the locations also sell groceries, and the latest at 111 E. Wacker Dr. is the only one in the city to sell beer, wine and spirits. Visitors scan their AmazonGo app upon entering the store, make their food selections and leave—no checkout, no registers. Its technology tracks selections and automatically charges the customer’s Amazon account upon leaving the store.
TōMI inside Revival Food Hall
125 S. Clark St.
The colorful and artistic sushi rolls offered at the TōMI stall belie their surprising makers: robots. One of the robots, by Suzumo, is able to crank out up to 350 rolls an hour and was chosen by the busy food hall location to meet high demand at a low price point.
McDonald's HQ Restaurant
1035 W. Randolph St.
The fast-food giant debuted its new $250 million corporate headquarters building last June, with its Experience of the Future restaurant concept on the ground floor. The high-tech location, which is open to the public, showcases its self-order kiosks, table service, mobile order and payment and more, selling McDonald’s regular menu items as well as a rotating menu of global offerings.
1000 W. Randolph St.
Starbucks became an investor and global licensee of this Milan bakery chain two years ago. Last year, Starbucks launched standalone Princi cafes in the U.S.—first in Seattle and then Chicago, where it has a history of testing new concepts. The layout puts all the action at the center of the restaurant where baked goods (prepared daily at a nearby commissary) are displayed on a wraparound counter beneath its signature “bread wall” and bar. The Italian menu evolves throughout the day with pastries and quick options for breakfast; soups, focaccia sandwiches and pizzas at lunch; and small plates, wine and cocktails in the evenings.