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Unique Finds for Catering at the National Restaurant Show


This week I had the opportunity to attend the National Restaurant Show in Chicago. What an amazing experience to see 2,000+ vendors in action selling everything under the sun for the food and beverage industry.

Outside of the obvious products you would expect to see at a food show, there was a plethora of heavy equipment, uniforms, advertising media, cleaning products, technology, and educational opportunities. Even the United States Post Office had space on the show floor!

After literally visiting thousands of booths, I decided to put together a small list of things that were truly unique, or perhaps items that our Total Party Planner catering software users could use. So here it is.

Disclaimer: I am not being paid to endorse any of these products. I also have no first hand experience with any of them. Again, they were items that stood out from the normal. They are listed in no particular order or preference.

  • Ozark River Portable Sinks : A clean, sleek, professional way to bring hot and cold water on-site with options to mount paper towel holders. The hot water is generated from a common 110 outlet. Definitely a great way to replace the 5 gallon water buckets for cleaning that you might be using now.
  • staybowlizer : a patented device that secures bowls of all shapes and sizes from unwanted movement during mixing or filling. Also acts as a double-boiler. You really have to see the demo to appreciate this unique item!
  • Fruit in Hand Fruit Starter : Fresh tasting flavors of ripe fruit added to any drink. I had a sample of mixed berry added to lemonade. Personally I enjoyed the small chunks of what seemed to be fresh fruit in the drink. They were also serving the fruit on a brie cheese stuffed pastry shell – which is what separated themselves from the other hundred vendors with a beverage product. Delicious!
  • Marinara Tower : Probably the MOST unique item I came across at the show. It replaces the chocolate fountain with more savory options such as meatballs, mozzarella, calamari, etc. Samantha (the inventor) and her mom were great to talk to and I just loved the personal aspect of how they were launching this new product. Check out the website and read Samantha’s story.
  • Meatless Meatballs by gardein : There’s no denying the fact that vegetarian and vegan requests are becoming more and more common. These soy based meatless meatballs were as close to the real thing I have ever tasted.
  • Custom Concessions : On January 15th we posted a blog about the rising trend of food trucks. Well, if you want to have one built to spec, this company is the one to call!
  • Cvap Cafe : food holding cabinets. According to the demo chef, we were served full cheeseburgers that were prepared over 2 hours earlier and stored in their holding cabinets. I couldn’t tell. They really did taste fresh off the grill.
  • Manner Guard : mouth guards for the true germ-o-phobe! I threw this one in just for fun. This seems like more of a product for a dental office… but who knows… perhaps someday the FDA will require all food service workers to wear one. You can say you saw it here first!
  • DissolvableLabel : for about the same price as the masking tape you might be using to label containers, you can now get fully dissolvable professional labels in a variety of formats. We watched the demo and they did indeed dissolve nicely in water. Shipping charges might put you over the cost of masking tape, but these are worth checking out.

Well, there were certainly thousands of other products to see at the National Restaurant Show. It became hard to distinguish who had the best frozen yogurt, gelato, chips, pasta, sauce, pastry, breads, seasoning, vegetables, desserts, soda, etc. because there were so many of them. That’s probably why you don’t see any of those listed in my unique finds list.

If you can, I would not hesitate to recommend you visit the show next year. If you did attend, and want to share some of YOUR favorite finds, please leave a comment!

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