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Wrap up: National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show (Part I)
As the economy gains steam, so -- it appears -- does the foodservice industry. Eager for profit-building and cost-cutting ideas and solutions, more than 73,300 restaurant professionals converged on Chicago's McCormick Place last month for the 85th Annual National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show. More than 2,060 exhibiting companies were on hand to unveil the industry's latest trends, innovations and products.

In the first part of this two-part Special Report, SmartBrief presents some of the top industry trends both from the Show floor and in recent news stories, including design and decor, technology and franchising. Part II in this series will run on Thursday, June 24, and address operations, food and beverage trends and food safety.
Association Coverage: The Show
As the industry's premier trend-watching event, the 2004 Show featured exhibitor products and services that covered the hottest trends in the business, including new food and beverage offerings, technology innovations and ways to improve restaurant efficiency.
 Pavilion scene: New this year was the EDGE Pavilion, which showcased exhibitors with the latest products and services related to design, décor and furnishings. The Technology Pavilion featured Wi-Fi, and the Franchise Pavilion was four times its original size.
 Exhibitors: More than 2,060 exhibitors, across more than 860 categories, attended the Show.
 New Products: The Hot New Products Guide featured the newest offerings and innovations.
 Industry magazine's wrap-up: QSR Magazine offers an overview of the Show.   QSR Magazine (6/2004)
Design & Decor 
Association coverage: EDGE Pavilion puts fashion on display
Cast-aluminum ceiling light fixtures, hand-painted tables and artificial palm trees were among the Show items on display for operators looking to jazz up their decor. "The 2004 Show is the definitive place in which to find new solutions, explore new opportunities and discuss trends in the ever-evolving marketplace of design and décor," says National Restaurant Association Convention Chairman Dick Rivera.
Designing around the new smoking laws
Some restaurants and bars in cities with tough smoking bans have gone the extra mile to create spaces where patrons can smoke and still experience the hospitality of the establishment. One New York bar co-branded with a tobacco shop, while others are designing inviting outdoor spaces shielded by shrubbery, or creating adjacent smoking "lounges" by renting stretch limos to keep patrons warm during mid-meal smoke breaks.   SLAMMED (6/2004)
Association coverage: The right lighting can set the mood
Restaurants often turn to lighting to create an extra cozy atmosphere, but they can be messy and create excess smoke. Creative twists on candles, such as smokeless tea lights and scented battery-operated "candles," along with high-end hand-blown glass oil lamps were on display at the Show.
Association coverage: Entertainment as part of the decor
Restaurants and bars are adding video games and other entertainment options to their design scheme, giving customers a reason to stay after their meal and entertaining children while families wait for tables.
Find suppliers in furniture, furnishings and decoration
Click here for a list of Show exhibitors in these categories.

Exhibitor Klondike Kidstuff Inc., with its customized 3-D
sculptures and creations, was part of the NRA Show's new
EDGE Design Pavilion. (Photo: NRA)

 Buy audiotapes from NRA Show seminars on Design Trends 2004 and Foodservice Planning: Changing the Old Rules!
2004 Restaurant Show a hot spot for tech companies
Several technology companies seeking to expand their presence in restaurants displayed their products at the National Restaurant Association Show. Motorola demonstrated two-way radios for servers to maintain contact with kitchen staff, while a device from Sharp allows managers to track the performance of individual menu items and promotions. "In the next five years you are going to see technology transform the dining business," said a Darden Restaurants spokesman.   Reuters (5/25)
Biometric technology helps small-business owners
Ohio restaurant Aladdin's Eatery says the cost of using fingerprint terminals for employees, $11,000 for four terminals and fingerprint pads, is "worth every penny." The technology requires employees to log in using their fingerprints, which are used to clock in and place orders and replaces the need for passwords and punch cards.   The Lansing State Journal (Mich.)/Knight Ridder (6/9)
Providing a free Wi-Fi hot spot may be worth the expense
Estimates range from $100 to more than $5,000 to turn a restaurant into a Wi-Fi hot spot, but some are finding that increased sales during down times have more than offset the costs. Starbucks and other chains charge customers for access, and it is unclear whether there is significant profit in this model. Cost of access may be the determining factor in whether a traveling business person decides to turn a restaurant table into his or her temporary office.   SLAMMED (6/2004)
Wireless technology is changing the face of WD business
Wireless technology has been used by busy business people for years to help them conduct work when they are away from the office. But now the reliability and availability of the technology is changing the way some wholesale distribution companies are able to conduct business.   The Boston Globe (free registration) (6/6)
How to make Wi-Fi pay
Paid Wi-Fi hot spots may face increasing competition from free access points, causing purveyors of paid hot spots to question how to make the technology profitable. Analysts say it won't become profitable unless providers change their business models wholesale.   Wired magazine (6/2004)
 Association coverage: The president of Layer 1 Wireless, which provided free Wi-Fi access on the Show floor, explains the dilemma restaurants face in charging for Wi-Fi. Other wireless technologies at the Show include new pagers from JTECH and the Tattle Tale portable alarm.
Free Wi-Fi hot spots eat into fee-based hot spot profits
The growth of free Wi-Fi hot spots in parks, cafes and other locations has thrown a wrench into the business plans of Wi-Fi providers trying to make money from the technology. Perhaps the biggest casualty yet of this trend was heavily backed Wi-Fi provider Cometa Networks, which announced last month it was suspending operations. (6/7)
Find suppliers in Technology & Entertainment
Click here for a list of Show exhibitors in these categories.
 Buy audiotapes from the Show about technology issues. Among the available tapes are sessions on "Leveraging Frequent Customers through New Technologies" and "Leveraging Your Point-of-Sale System."
Association Show provides exposure for pizza franchises
The 2004 Show featured pizza heavyweights such as Little Caesars and Papa John's, as well as smaller enterprises such as Buck's Pizza and Pizza Inn. While the Show's large attendance introduces the companies to many potential franchisees, Papa John's John Campbell says his company is exhibiting mainly to enhance brand awareness.   PizzaMarketplace (5/25)
Franchise ownership opens up for minorities
As home ownership increases, more minorities are able to obtain loans to become franchisees, and some franchises are targeting minority owners for expansions. One franchise association executive said the growing wealth of the black and Hispanic populations make them a prime target for potential franchisees.   Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (5/4)
Burger King hopes new franchisee brings some "Magic"
Burger King has enlisted Magic Johnson Enterprises to take over control of 30 existing restaurants. The eponymous basketball star has invested in T.G.I. Friday's, Starbucks and Loews Cineplex since leaving professional basketball.   The Miami Herald (free registration) (6/8),   Journal and Constitution (Atlanta) (free registration) (6/7)
Franchising opportunities at the Show
Click here to read about the offerings at this year's Franchise Pavilion.
NRA Resources 
Relive the Show in pictures
Click here to view pictures from the Show.
It's not too early to think about the 2005 Show
Plans for the 2005 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show are underway. The Show will be held May 21 to 24 in Chicago. Sign up to receive news updates on next year's Show, and click here for information on exhibiting.
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