2018 National Restaurant Association Show Recap

Last Monday, May 21st 2018, members of the Worldlink Integration team were among the 75,000 people who were attending the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, Illinois. There were many exciting upcoming trends in the structure of restaurants and the types of food and drink that will be hitting locations around the world in the coming months.

However, as our focus has always been integrated systems first and foremost, the Worldlink team spent the greatest amount of time looking into emerging tech. It was an incredible opportunity to meet with other industry leaders and preview some of the biggest advancements shaping restaurants and hospitality.

The much-anticipated National Restaurant Association Show was wall-to-wall with great ideas. Let’s take a look at some of our favorites.

Apex – Redesigning Takeout Food Lockers

Apex Supply Chain Technologies has been working with multiple casual dining restaurants to bring about a new method of takeout. Their warming food lockers keep food hot while it waits for you to pick it up. When you do arrive, you simply punch in the PIN that corresponds to your locker and pick up your order. Everything is paid for ahead of time, and the hands-off approach will free up the staff to take care of other customers. Apex is also developing a version of this technology that uses your phone instead of a PIN, which would allow you to take your food without having to memorize a PIN at all.

Nextep Systems – The “Next Step” in Self-Order Kiosks

You may have read our recent blog where we talked about the power of visual AI. One of the industry leaders in this regard has been Nextep Systems. Their facial recognition technology was featured this year, and in fact has already been deployed to multiple locations in California, Texas, and Massachusetts. Their recognition software vastly speeds up point-of-sale, as well as the process of ordering, to the point where a customer can enter and order in around six seconds. In addition, Nextep goes the extra mile and offers a variety of other features to their self-order kiosks, such as displaying nutrition facts on a digital display and real-time POS data available from any device.

Intuitive Concepts – Consumers Love Table Charging Stations

Consumers may not have to worry about making sure their phone is charged the next time they go out. That is, they won’t have to worry if their destination has recently deployed Intuitive Concepts charging stations. These “table tents” are placed off to the side near the drink menus, and allow customers whose phones are dying to connect and charge their phone while they eat. Based on our own extensive experience with integrating charging stations, we know customers certainly appreciate having that option. In fact, if someone is deciding where to go and their phones are on low battery, it could be one of the things that causes a potential customer to go to your restaurant over a competitor.

Xenial Cloud – Empowering Point-of-Sale Analytics

One of the most impressive POS innovations in recent years has been real-time analytics, and Xenial takes this technology a step further. Xenial offers reporting that breaks down individual labor costs, insight into when you need to schedule employees, and even lets you segment your customer base into highly specialized and customizable categories, such as by address or by their dining frequency. Xenial’s latest developments in analytics have only grown more powerful and useful since we saw them last year. Though our biggest takeaway was the robustness of their cloud service: even if your Internet is down for days, Xenial’s software will continue to run locally until the Internet connection is restored.

From the Worldlink Team

A few of the members of the Worldlink Integration team that were in attendance were asked what impressed them the most at this year’s National Restaurant Association Show. Here’s what they had to say.

John Fecteau – CEO

“I spent the day in the tech pavilion at the NRA Show with my sales and professional services team. I was impressed with all of the customer convenience technologies, including: mobile ordering and delivery, robots and automation, self-serve kiosks and food lockers to name a few. We had several great meetings centered around helping our clients experience these efficiencies and providing their customers with an enhanced experience.”

Don Iriye – Director of Professional Services

“Though I have a history in the restaurant industry, it has been several years since my last attendance. I noticed a significant increase in the size and scope of the show. Along with the typical food and equipment vendors, I saw a greater presence of eco-friendly sustainable products in both food and packaging and the expected advances in technology. Most notable in the technology sectors were the addition of guest analytics, digital signage, self-service kiosks, and mobile POS solutions. There was also a focus on takeout services, such as online ordering and delivery, that allows customers the option of experiencing their meals outside of the restaurant environment.”

Jeff Thomson – Account Manager

“This was my first time attending the NRA Show and I was very impressed with the size, diversity of exhibitors and the amazing food everywhere. I had the opportunity to learn a great deal about technology trends both already existing as well as what is coming in the near future. Mobile ordering, tablet POS for “line busting”, very cool digital signage and menu board products were on display and the teams manning the booths were excited to share information. We were able to make some contacts and initiate relationships with what could prove to be very interesting and exciting partners.”


Learn More About Us

For more on our experience in the industry, you can read our food service case studies and our approach to restaurant networking and integration. In addition, you may also be interested in some innovative ways chain restaurants are utilizing kiosks, which also features a few of the companies we mention here.