By Emma Hall
A group of high schoolers waited in line for pulled pork sandwiches alongside women in business attire and men in brewery T-shirts. A few booths over, restaurant owners contemplated investing in shatterproof drinkware, and nearby, a group of restaurateurs exclaimed over Torani's new fruit smoothie mixes. The event was this week's 49th annual Northwest Foodservice Show.
Over 5,000 attendees visited about 450 exhibit booths at the industry trade show, filling up on samples and checking out new products. Everything from compostable cups to local ice cream was featured at the show, which is produced jointly by the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association and the Washington Restaurant Association. The show is held every other year in Portland and Seattle, and equal parts socializing and scouting distributors has helped it become the biggest industry show in the Northwest.
The Northwest-centric show featured local vendors as well as international ones. Some new technology out of Canada that was showcased was the Digital Tag by JCO Products, a tiny 2.4" digital tag that displays 12 hours of video and presentations, a sort of video nametag.
The attendees all were affiliated with the restaurant and food service industry in some way. They whispered to each other almost conspiratorially in the aisles, "You must get a sample from Zenner's," or "Try the 100 proof vodka from Ye Ol' Grog!"
Ye Ol' Grog Distillery was a popular booth.
Many attendees ended their walk around the exhibits with a visit to the Tasting Pavilion, expanded for this year's theme of "Raise the Bar," which spotlighted the alcoholic beverage segment of the industry. Local beer was featured alongside distilled spirits, and presenters gave demonstrations on mixing and pairing.
Besides the exhibitor's booths, there were also a Chef Demonstration Stage and educational seminars. One of the seminars focused on social media, presented by Boris Bugarski, CEO of mUrgent. Show manager John Santella said he considered the rise of social media to be the biggest recent change in the industry. "Social media is becoming more and more important to the industry," Santella said. "It's an easy way for businesses to promote themselves."
Emma Hall is web editor for Oregon Business.