Three Key Trends from NRA 2024

CHICAGO – The food-away-from home industry gathered in Chicago between May 18 and May 21 for the 2024 National Restaurant Association Show (NRA 2024). Hosted at McCormick Place, the show served as a vehicle for product samples, in-person meetings, and a view into the biggest trends coming for the foodservice industry.

What were some of the biggest trends at the NRA 2024? Emerging technology, convenience, and cold beverages were among the biggest themes on display at the show.

Technology Solutions on Full Display at NRA 2024

Automation, artificial intelligence, and other robotics featured prevalently at the NRA 2024.

Robo-Cook showcased its back-of-house robotic arms in an appropriately unmanned display on the show floor. The exhibit showed how the arms could operate deep fryers and griddles for a restaurants’ kitchen operations and free up labor for other tasks around the restaurant.

Raydiant Technologies, a software provider, displayed its technologies on the show floor. The company provides digital signboards that can be adjusted on the fly to account for out-of-stock items, as an example.

Raydiant also displayed its AI-based recognition system that can offer targeted meal deals for the demographic profile of the person standing in front of the screen. For example, when a child walked in front of the camera, the display showcased a kids’ meal option.

Additionally, Middleby Corp. and demonstrated a kiosk and food locker setup that allowed for efficient ordering of food which would then be placed in a heated lock box for later consumer pick-up, providing a concept that could help cut down on labor costs for some operations.

Convenience is King at NRA 2024

Middleby and’s solution could also fit into this convenience bucket, but it was far from the only example of how convenience is becoming more and more important in the restaurant industry.

Wonder showcased its quick-cook ovens that could create everything from pizza to steak to mac-and-cheese. The company pivoted from its delivery model to a food hall-style concept featuring multiple cuisine types that are available for dine-in, delivery, or pick-up service.

Nestle Professional also highlighted several easy-to-use solutions that restaurant operators could leverage back-of-house, including gourmet flatbreads and mac-and-cheese dishes formulated with Stouffer’s white cheddar mac-and-cheese solution.

Cold Beverages Abound at NRA 2024

Energy-drink maker Celsius hosted a pop-up bar, providing cans of its signature product. Booth attendants also made mocktails from the product, however, showcasing a new way for restaurant operators to create enticing beverages for guests.

Meanwhile, beverage industry stalwarts The Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo both had impressive booths highlighting digital marketing and new flavors and brands. The displays reinforced how the brands are working to remain relevant with younger generations.

Poppi, a better-for-you soda brand, was also at the show. The company’s formulations combine fruit juice, apple cider vinegar, and inulin prebiotics to create their products.


The Food Institute Podcast

How are foodservice consumers contending with persistent inflation? Are they eating more at home, for example, or continuing to treat themselves at their favorite restaurants? The latest episode of The Food Institute Podcast examines that topic with Krystle Mobayeni of BentoBox, who dissected rapidly evolving consumer dining dynamics.