Sunday, May 23, 2010

Day One take-aways from the NRA show

What I learned so far during the NRA show:

The McDonald’s at McCormick Place doesn’t have a Dollar Menu. Reports that it’s the test site for a new Twenty Menu are probably just rumors.

College and university foodservices are way ahead of restaurants in composting food waste, but they face an inherent and peculiar problem>. “It’s widely done [on campuses], but it’s typically led by a student, a champion. So—guess what?—every four years they have a change in leadership,” explained Richard Young, senior engineer and director of education for the Food Service Technology Center, a facility that tests commercial kitchen equipment to determine its efficiency.

Young explained that schools feel the need to put it in place so they avert that four-year freshman-to-senior cycle.
His comments came during a presentation at the Conserve Solutions Center, a new feature of this year’s show. The section of the show floor features several green-focused suppliers and is presenting a slew of eco-minded education programs. Young participated in a session that highlighted a grant program run by the Hobart Center for Foodservice Sustainability. The prize is awarded annually to what the judges choose as the most innovative and well-educated sustainability project of the year (details are available here).

Truck restaurants will drive away with new respect and plenty of leads on would-be partners. The rolling-restaurant phenomenon officially moves mainstream with this year’s show. I had the good fortune of serving on two panels with Scott Baitinger, one of the principals in Milwaukee’s Street-za pizzeria-on-wheels, and it may be the closest I come to rubbing elbows with Mick Jagger or other rock stars. He drew a tremendous number of questions, and then was besieged with attendees afterward, pressing him for information. Others mobbed his truck, which was part of the show’s Truck Food Stop area. Once blasted as roach coaches, truck restaurants may be the hottest concept to emerge from the convention.

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