I’ve never worked in a restaurant before, I have no waitressing experience or experience as a hostess or busing tables. I cook, in my own kitchen at home, and can’t imagine cooking meals for hundreds of people in one night.
Since working for NCCO I’ve learned a lot about the restaurant industry but everything I’ve learned has been on paper until I attended the recent National Restaurant Association show.
While walking down the aisles past exhibitor booths trying not to bump into one of the other thousands of attendees, I saw knife throwers cut a cucumber out of someone’s hand, observed while a chef cut up a large pig carcass and took a picture with an enormous Twinkie dressed like a cowboy.
As I continued to explore the show I did stop in to listen to some of the seminars held by industry leaders. It was interesting to me how much focus there was on Millennials during the seminars I attended. Being a millennial myself, I was interested to hear what actions restaurant industry leaders are taking to adapt to my generation.
Chris Newcomb of Newk’s Eatery discussed millennials impact on fast-casual restaurants, their main influencers, what and how they like to eat and what experience they are looking for in a restaurant. He talked about his own restaurant and how they create a stage where diners can see their food being prepared. They have an open environment that focuses on transparency with food because that is important to the millennials. As a group of restaurant owners listened intently, I thought about my favorite fast-casual restaurants and what I love about dining there.
I like that they have an open environment that focuses on transparency with food. You know exactly what’s going in to your meal before eating it because you watched them make it. That transparency is extremely important to millennials. Some focus more on the speed of service and add an extra point of hospitality by bringing the food directly to the customers table. It is all about experience for me, if I have a great experience somewhere, you know I will be back.
As I continued to tour the exhibit halls and collect swag, I noticed that many of the companies displaying at the show are also taking steps to create products and offer services that allow companies opportunities to reach the millennial customer.
One company that stands out, not only because they were giving away a sweet pair of shades, is a technology company who has built a platform for small businesses to build lasting customer relationships. Their system connects with large search engines and allows their clients to make changes to their menu, add announcements, and feature specials across all sites. As someone who has grown up with advanced technology and wants access to everything at the click of a button, I think this system is great for millennials.
As the show came to an end, I realized something about myself and my generation of eighty million; we have an opportunity to make a large impact on this industry in amazing ways and this tradeshow showcased many of them. I can’t wait to see what new innovative ideas are displayed at the NRA Show 2017, and of course what other costumed snack cakes I can find to get my picture taken with.