If you work in the food service industry, the National Restaurant Association Show is the place to be. It's an annual trade show with more than 50,000 professionals, 2,200 exhibitors, and 900 product categories in a space that covers over 11 football fields.

However, with an event this big, your visit can easily turn into information overload. So, if you want to get the most out of it, you've got to plan ahead. We'll help you do that. But first, let's get some basics out of the way.

Where is the National Restaurant Association Show?

The 2024 National Restaurant Association Show is at McCormick Place, 2301 S. King Drive, Chicago, IL  60616, Saturday, May 18, 2024 – Tuesday, May 21, 2024.

The show hours are Saturday – Monday (18 – 20): 9:30 am – 5:00 pm, Tuesday (21): 9:30 – 3:30 pm

For a detailed show floor plan of the exhibitors, booths, and product categories, check out this interactive map.

Who attends the National Restaurant Association Show?

According to the NRA, there will be over 35,000 decision-makers from all parts of the food service industry. Here's how that breaks down.

32% - Commercial Businesses

Barrio Brewing Co., Burma Restaurants, Columbia Hospitality Inc., Frontera Grill, Gibsons Restaurant Group, Hart House, Joe's Stone Crab Restaurant, Kings Fish House, Lagunitas Brewing Co., Lawry's, Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group, RBM Restaurant Group, Stone Brewing, The H.Wood Group, White Castle. (2023 Attendees)

25% - Commercial Chains

Arby's, Bojangles, Brinker International, Buffalo Wild Wings, California Pizza Kitchen, Chick-Fil-A, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Craker Barrel, Darden Restaurants, Del Taco, Dominos, Dunkin', Five Guys, Inspire Brands, Jack in the Box, Jimmy John's, McDonald's, Panera, Papa John's, Pizza Hut, Portillo, Red Lobster, Red Robin, Shake Shack, Starbucks, Subway, Taco Bell, Texas Roadhouse, Wendy's, Yum! Brands, Zaxby's (2023 Attendees)

22% - Non-Commercial Businesses

Aramark, Association of Correctional Food Service Affiliates, Centerplate, Compass, Cornell Univerisity, Dayton Children's Hospital, Deleware North Companies, Inc., DFW International Airport, Georgia State University, North Dakota State University, Rice University, Sodexo, The Ohio State University, The University of Notre Dame, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy (2023 Attendees)

15% - Dealers and Distributors

Boelter, Clark Association Inc., Gordon Food Service, Katom Restaurant Supply Inc., Parts Town, Singer Equipment Company, Restaurant Equipment World, Stafford-Smith, Inc., Sysco, Trimark, US Foods, Wasserstrom (2023 Attendees)

3% - Retail Businesses

7-Eleven, Amazon, Buc-ee's, Costco, Food Lion, Getgo Cafe + Market, Giant Eagle, H-E-B, KUM & Go, Kwik Trip, Publix, Racetrac, Sam's Club, Sheetz, Walmart, WAWA, Whole Foods Market (2023 Attendees)

3% - Lodging Corporations

Best Western, Carnival Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, Disneyland Resort, Four Seasons Hotel & Resorts, Great Wolf Resorts, Hilton, Holiday Inn, Hyatt Hotels, JW Marriott, Loews Hotels, Norwegian Cruise Line, Sheraton, The Ritz Carlton, Universal Orlando Resort, Westin, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts (2023 Attendees)

How much does the National Restaurant Association Show cost?

To join the show, you must be affiliated with the restaurant, lodging, or food service industry. A business card or tax ID number is required to register. The show is not open to the public. Expo Badges cost $170 if you get them before May 9. After that, they cost $225. Education Badges cost an additional $250 before May 9; after that, that cost goes up to $300. See the full list of prices and registration options.

How to plan for the NRA show?

Follow our step-by-step guide to get the most out of your visit to the show.

1. Set clear objectives for your visit

Before exploring the schedule of events, consider what would help your business the most:

  • Getting food and drink recipes
  • Exploring equipment options
  • Learning marketing strategies
  • Discovering new products
  • Trying out point-of-sale systems
  • Meeting with national suppliers
  • Finding out what's trending in the industry
  • Networking with professionals
  • Seeing the latest technology & AI

Write down your goals in the order of priority. Maybe you need to focus on upgrading your restaurant POS and meeting suppliers. Or perhaps you want to get some great recipes and network with other professionals like you. Setting clear intentions will keep you from getting sidetracked from your main objective.

2. Create a profile for the show

The National Restaurant Association knows people need to plan their time at the show. So they've created The Show to Go, where attendees can save sessions and appointments to a calendar, add exhibitors and products, and get personalized recommendations.

Start by creating a user profile and then adding your badge ID. After that, download the National Restaurant Association Show app on your phone. It's available for both iOS and Android. Once logged in, you can stay updated on event changes and keep track of your schedule while at the show.

3. Schedule your events and sessions

The National Restaurant Show offers events and sessions led by industry experts. These cover topics from restaurant management and marketing to culinary techniques and menu development. Since these take place at specific times, plan those first. You can either view them by track or the entire list. Look over the tracks below and see which align with your goals.

  • Culinary insights
  • Marketing matters
  • Operations solutions
  • Technology strategies
  • Trends in adult beverages
  • Workforce management

If you want to see how restaurant scheduling software can cut your labor costs, be sure to check out SpotOn's session on labor-management efficiency. Details below.

Masters of Efficiency • Innovation Theatre Monday, May 20 • 11:00 am – 11:30 am

Unlock the strategies that top industry leaders use to control restaurant labor costs.

Add to my show planner

The show will also feature presentations from Chef and Humanitarian José Andrés, acclaimed chefs & mixologists, Food and Beverage Industry (FABI) Award winners, and kitchen innovations award recipients. 

Many sessions overlap, so before committing to a particular one, check out this complete list of events in chronological order to make sure you're making the most of your time. Pro tip: Switch to list view for easy viewing.

3. Explore the exhibitors

At the show, there will be 2,200 exhibitors from 11 different categories—beverage, educational, equipment, food, furniture (furnishings & decor), lodging, paper (plastics & supplies), services, tableware (linen), technology & entertainment, and uniforms.

You can sample drinks created by expert mixologists in the Beverage Room, taste food, and get recipes from 5 other pavilions featuring cuisine from the States, Spain, Italy, Brazil, China, Ecuador, France, Greece, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Scotland and Thailand. And browse the Organic and Natural Pavilion if you're looking for healthy menu alternatives.

Suppliers and equipment vendors from across the nation will also be there to show off their products and explain how they can work in your business. And in the tech pavilion, you'll find the latest innovations in the future of AI, along with cutting-edge technology like SpotOn.

SpotOn • Booth 6462

SpotOn’s mission is to give restaurants a fighting chance with innovative and easy-to-use software and payment solutions.

Add to my show planner

Before the show, be sure to browse the list of exhibitors and add the ones to your planner that look interesting to you.

4. Network with other professionals

At the show and after hours, there are multiple opportunities to meet up with people in the industry. From professional gatherings to dinner experiences at nearby restaurants, you're sure to find something that fits your vibe. Just be sure to buy your tickets in advance before they're sold out.

Here's a list of what's going on:

International Reception • Saturday, May 18 • 5 pm to 6 pm

An event where international trade executives and exhibiting companies can connect with each other.

Young Professionals Party • Sunday, May 19 • 5 pm to 7 pm

Meet friends, learn about other areas of food service, and indulge in delicious apps and beverages.

Dinner Experiences • Sunday, May 19 • 7 pm

Gourmet collaborative dinners, each showcasing 2 Let’s Talk Womxn entrepreneurs and their concepts.

Industry Night Out • Monday, May 20 • 7 pm to 10 pm

The industry's biggest night out at Time Out Market featuring Chicago's top chefs, restaurants, and bars.

Meetups and Networking • Various times

A series of planned meetups during the show, enabling peers and industry leaders to share advice.

Attending the National Restaurant Show is an excellent opportunity to stay ahead of the curve in the dynamic food service industry. So, mark your calendars, prepare yourself, and get ready to make the most of the 2024 National Restaurant Show.

Get a demo - Restaurant
Share this post