The Texas Restaurant Association (TRA) brought together more than 6,000 foodservice professionals for the largest industry gathering in the Southwest, the annual TRA Marketplace, which took place on July 9 and 10 at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas.
In its 80th year, the TRA Marketplace is part tradeshow, part conference, with over 600 exhibiting companies participating, showcasing everything from artisan food products and craft beverages to linens, mobile technology, security, kitchen equipment, supplies and even food trucks.
“Texas restaurants comprise a $54 billion industry,” says Richie Jackson, CEO of the Texas Restaurant Association. “As our industry continues to grow, it is more important than ever that we continue to provide top quality conference sessions by industry leaders, networking opportunities and the best vendors in the country. We have eight decades of experience, along with the best and brightest talent in the industry providing everything under one roof.”
Last year, the show was announced as one of the nation’s top 25 fastest-growing shows in attendance by the Trade Show News Network (TSNN), a leading trade show industry authority.
Thousands of restaurateurs, chefs, and industry executives from multi-unit operations and independent businesses to franchisees, hotels, and large chains, gathered to network, purchase, browse and learn during the two-day show. Three different stages, the Education Idea Center, TIPS (Technology, Innovation, Profits, Solutions), and the Cutting Edge stage offered multiple seminars, panels and live demonstrations from nationally-known speakers, chefs and industry leaders.
Highlights included award-winning author of “Whiteboard” and “A Company of Owners”, Daren Martin, PhD, who spoke on how to develop and retain top performers; speaker and author of “The Business Blueprint”, Gerry O’Brion gave a fascinating turn about how restaurants can grow from using the same strategies as billion dollar brands; and Cicely Simpson of the National Restaurant Association (NRA) and Anna Tauzin Rice of TRA co-presented on the benefits and challenges of on-demand delivery, covering everything from costs, to marketing to pricing.
Legendary restaurateur and New Orleans native Ti Adelaide Martin, of the Commander's Palace gave an inspirational presentation about women in leadership, while other education topics ranged from mobile technology to the latest in pickling and fermentation, to top trends in coffees and teas. As a special feature, students from the Texas ProStart Culinary Team from Rockwall High School, who placed third in the National ProStart Invitational this year, showed off their culinary skills by demonstrating their winning menu items.
Over in the PAC Lounge, a responsive crowd greeted Houston attorney and immigration expert Jacob Monty of Monty & Ramirez LLP, who gave an overview of the changing immigration landscape and fielded questions. State Representative Cindy Burkett also stopped by to address TRA Members, discussing issues such as the upcoming special session.
Tackling technology in the restaurant industry was Alex Barrotti, founder and CEO of TouchBistro, who was recently honored as Entrepreneur of the Year in the prestigious 2017 CEO World Awards. He addressed the hottest topics shaping the industry currently, including predictive ordering, mobile/online reservations and loyalty programs.
A popular show feature introduced just last year was the ‘Culinary Innovation Station’ comprised of a curated collection of innovative companies newly launching their products in Texas, including Macaw Confections LLC, Hospitality Mints, CuppaCo Foods and Beverages LLC, NatureSeal Inc., Wisconsin’s Finest Cheese, Atlantis Sea Salt, Twang Partners LTD., Blue Top Brand Sauces, Pecans.com, Ice Husky and many more.
The New Product Showcase spotlighted all-new products hitting the market, which included Swift Sensors, Inc., Umpqua Oats, Rumi Spice, ItalCrust Wood Fired Pizza Crusts, Mama La’s Kitchen LLC and Breeden Fresh Farms among several others.
Other specialty areas included a Craft Beverage Garden which featured a wide array of craft beer and liquors and a dedicated GO TEXAN area, which featured specialty, artisan products hand-crafted in the Lone Star State.
Next year, for the first time in decades, TRA Marketplace heads to the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, July 15 and 16.
With more than 2.3 million residents, San Antonio is the 25th largest city in the United States and is projected to grow by 28 percent over the coming decades.