Written in no particular order these are the 6 things I got most excited about spending the weekend at the 2019 National Restaurant Association show.
- Supply Chain Traceability is a topic I heard about several times over the weekend. Most interestingly in a talk by Paul Chang of IBM Food discussing the applications of blockchain. There were over 400 food recalls last year and creating a system where food from a specific source can be quickly and efficiently recalled will be essential to decreasing the impact of these events.
- Teabot – While the economics of Teabot don’t fit well into restaurants yet, it is simply a showstopper. Who doesn’t want to mix and match their own tea flavors from a giant robot?
- No Rock – Have you ever sat down at a table and realized it wobbled? Of course, you have, literally everyone has. It is one of those irritating problems that nobody seems to have solved as effectively as one would hope. Well No Rock is here to help. An Australian brand, they just began importing to the US. Using patented technology, they self-stabilize in seconds and seem to work really effectively.
- Blendtec – This one blew me away. Their new blender system blends the smoothie in the cup you serve the customers! It was magical. I have some hesitations about how well it would do with thick smoothies (the demonstration smoothie was a bit thin.) But this new product might have convinced me to betray my loyalty to Vitamix and make the switch if I still owned a café. It should be available in the next 30-60 days.
- Plant-based everything – If I wasn’t certain this was a hot trend beforehand, I sure do now. We aren’t just talking Meatless Monday anymore, there were meat alternative vendors everywhere. From the big hitters like Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods and Morningstar Farms to faces I hadn’t heard of before like Ocean Hugger Foods. While many of the samples were quite tasty and would happily please my carnivorous self, others were clearly lacking in texture and flavor.
- Restaurant Technologies – This company does total oil management. While I don’t claim to know much about oil management, I do remember it always being a pain point when the grease traps were full and Chef forgot to tell anyone until it was almost too late. Their system automatically tells them when the oil needs to be changed and it hooks up directly to the fryer for easy fill/clean-up.
Bonus: RestauranTrak – While not displaying at the show, I found myself in conversation with this new company. This is a product launching from Nielsen that will allow restaurant operators to access market data on their category and location. The kicker, it is free!