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4 Trends from the 100th National Restaurant Association Show

4 Trends from the 100th National Restaurant Association Show

For 100 years, the National Restaurant Association has been hosting shows featuring the latest and greatest in foodservice innovation. A few CI Design team members made the trip down to Chicago this year to celebrate the show’s centennial, lend support to our clients, and check out what’s new and exciting in the industry. Here’s a look at four major trends they spotted.

Plant-based everything

Everything from food to packaging material was being touted as “plant-based.” The most visible example was Impossible Burger. (Though available at a variety of restaurants nationwide, Burger King recently made headlines by releasing the Impossible Whopper with great fanfare.) The brand had a large booth presence on the floor and plenty of ads in skywalks around the complex.


Single-use items, like drinking straws, have been under fire recently for their negative impact on the environment. There were plenty of alternatives on offer made from more Earth-friendly materials like paper and even hay. To-go packaging designed with the Earth in mind and reusable glass packaging popped up at several booths.

Tech-savvy experiences

Tech innovations will continue to change how we order up our favorite foods, whether at restaurants or from the comfort of our couches. Streamlined point-of-sales systems, smart inventory management, and ordering by voice command are all possibilities to make things easier and faster. Plus, keep an eye out for charging stations at your favorite bars and restaurants. They’ll keep your devices charged so you’re more likely to order a few more apps (the edible kind).

Food Safety

Protecting consumers from foodborne illness can be tricky, even for the most safety-conscious restaurants. One company we spotted in the show’s “start-up alley” is hoping their scanner that checks hands for bacteria such as E. coli or salmonella can add another level of safety at restaurants or food production facilities. We hope this one takes off.

We had such a great time checking out booths, finding inspiration for our clients, and yes, sampling some tasty treats. We can’t wait to see what next year will bring.


Find out how our award-winning marketing team can bring your brand to life on and off the tradeshow floor. Check out some of our work, and drop us a line at



Clockwise: These macarons were almost too pretty to eat. Almost. / Brent tries to make off with a month’s supply of hot sauce / Dylan and Heather say it’s 5 O’ clock somewhere / Jiffy had an impressive food service booth and some impressive garlic cheddar biscuits


The CI Trends Team

The CI Trends Team

CI Design is an award-winning agency located in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward. Driven by curiosity and passion, we are a creative marketing engine dedicated to shaping stories that get results.

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