05-16-2012 8:17 AM - Post NRA Show

Post NRA Show

I am in full NRA-recovery mode.  While the show felt bigger than in recent memory, I was disappointed that the one speaker I wanted to hear was over-booked.  That is partially my fault, because in an effort to save cab fare, I opted for a shuttle that didn't save me much money and took a lot longer than anticipated.  By the time I got to Jim Sullivan's workshop on "The New Basics", the door was closed and there was a line of people waiting to get in. 

From this disappointing experience, there are two lessons for me. First of all, I'll take the train from O'Hare. That is something savvy Chicago commuters have known since before the Dan Ryan was built! Secondly, be on time for these workshops. David Novak's session later that day had an even longer line.  The lesson the NRA may want to learn is to book larger spaces for their key presenters.

In terms of the exhibits, a lot of the new things were found in the technology section; I am convinced that there is now an app for nearly every restaurateur's concern.  You can get set shifts for your workers; track temperatures in your freezer, even monitor your employee's hand-washing habits from your iPhone. What intrigues me is what happened to the folks who had new solutions last year. My sense is that there will be a whole new crop of app providers next year and that a lot of this year's favorites will not be around.

One of the areas that continues to get more play is the use of the tablet/iPad as an ordering device.  I addressed this previously in the January 31st post, but it came up again last week when the well respected speaker and trainer, Bob Brown, (of the "Little Brown Book" fame) sent me this link from Business Week: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-05-01/may-the-tablet-take-your-order.

In true BW fashion, the real focus dealt with the entrepreneur, Rajat Suri, who managed to scrape together enough resources to create an ordering device in the pre-iPad era.  To his credit, it is getting some traction, but the article starts by saying that Suri doesn't hate waiters, but he hates waiting.  In my mind that summarizes when these devices will be effective - in situations where speed and convenience matter most.  Perhaps it is my Luddite tendency, but for me, the dining experience is usually to be savored and not rushed; therefore, I want to talk to a knowledgeable, helpful server about what to order and what to avoid.  Not only will I get a meal that I'll enjoy, but I bet she would also tell me which train to take to get to my next meeting on time!

Ben