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C-store Finds on the 2017 NRA Show Floor


CHICAGO — At more than 695,000 square feet, the 2017 National Restaurant Association (NRA) Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show was the largest ever, and welcomed more than 66,000 total registrants.

The 98th annual event was held at Chicago’s McCormick Place from May 20-23 and brought a diverse range of foodservice industry sectors together under one roof.

“NRA Show 2017 was a true reflection of today’s restaurant, foodservice and hospitality industry,” said Atour Eyvazian, convention chair and multiunit owner of 122 restaurants between two brands, Jack in the Box and El Pollo Loco. “Throughout the four days … the sold-out exhibit floor represented major advancements in products and services that will solve a wide range of real-world operator challenges, and the energy and optimism of our industry coming together was unmistakable.”

The NRA Show's expo halls featured hundreds of exhibitors, many of whom specifically targeted the convenience store industry while highlighting their new products. Last week, Convenience Store News presented Part 1 of our exhibit floor recap. Here is Part 2:

Bunn-O-Matic is one of several foodservice equipment companies jumping into the nitro coffee craze. In cold brew, coffee grounds are steeped in room-temperature water for up to 25 hours, which produces a concentrated coffee that is then diluted with water (about half and half), and served chilled. Nitro cold brew infuses the cold brew coffee with nitrogen gas. This pressurized gas creates a creamy, stout-beer-like effect and a silkier taste than regular cold brew. Built off of Bunn's successful juice dispenser model, its Nitron Cold Draft will launch in July and ship in August, according to Bunn's Scott Reed.

Joe Tap/Micromatic is also on top of the millennial-driven nitro beverage trend. Joe Tap believes its nitro coffee and cold brew is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to nitrogen-infused drinks. Expect Nitro Tea, Nitro Lemonade, and other similar concoctions as the craze spreads across the country.

Welbilt (formerly Manitowoc) was proudly showing off its new MercoMax hot holding cabinet line. The cabinet, which keeps food warm with heated convection air flow rather than more typical radiant heat, also features a new easy-to-program touchscreen. It won a 2017 NRA Kitchen Innovations Award. "We see an opportunity to help c-stores get through busy times with these holding cabinets," said Mary Miller, senior product manager, Merco. Welbilt also displayed its new Wave 250 carbonated beverage system. The unit features not one, but three touchscreens that are customizable and operate independently to minimize customer waiting time at the dispensers. With duo-dispensers, two customers can pour themselves a drink at the same time.

Rubbermaid spotlighted its popular color-coded storage containers, highlighting the fact that this year-old product recently won the Seal of Approval from the American Culinary Federation. The storage and sanitation supplier also displayed the newest addition to its Brute line of rollout containers — a new hands-free, step-on Brute model.

Follet, one of the industry's leaders in large-volume ice makers and noted for its soft chewable ice, announced that it will be introducing two larger machines (1,800 pounds and 2,000 pounds) later this year.

The NRA Show exhibit floor also featured a wide variety of demonstrations and educational sessions for all segments of the foodservice industry. John Sammon of Par Technology gave a timely presentation on "Food Safety in the Information Age." He noted that 48 million people are poisoned by food each year in the United States and 128,000 are hospitalized, resulting in 3,000 deaths per year from foodborne illness.

"Food safety is often about culture," said Sammons, who showed how Par's SureCheck handheld-based food safety solution can drive efficiency, reduce liability, and improve training and verification of standards. "It's not that we don't know what to do, it's that someone has been negligent in doing it.”

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