Healthy Kids Meals Steal the Show | Brand Education for Restaurants

Like most people who attended the National Restaurant Association Show 2012 in Chicago at McCormick Place, I am still getting my hands around all the wonderful content that was shared. This year’s show included record attendance and showed strong signs for positive growth throughout the industry. If you have never attended the NRA Show you should think about it, if not next year sometime in the near future. It is a wonderful way to stay up on trends, learn about new products/services and of course network with fellow restaurant industry folks.

For those of you that did not attend, I will attempt to share my finding and offer up new resources that I stumbled upon during my time at the #NRASHOW 2012. I will share additional thoughts over the next few weeks broken down into multiple posts.

What were the hot topics this year?

Digital, Mobile & Social Media


Gluten-Free..and the most popular discussion point was healthy, affordable food for kids.

Digital, Mobile & Social Media The Tech Pavilion was bursting at the seams with start-ups, the restaurant industry like most are trying to stay current and use technology to stay one step ahead of the competition. As you know if you have read my previous blog posts, I feel strongly that digital, mobile and social media are great equalizers for individual restaurant owners as well as small to mid-size restaurant groups. I plan to dedicate future posts to sharing more specific vendors and products I met with as well as best practices. What you need to take away is the fact that you need to get involved with the newer media options, NOW. You still have an opportunity to be an early adopter in your market and among your local and regional competitors. 

What is your coffee personality?

If anyone is looking for suggestions for digital signage, mobile app development, social media, website development or optimization and SEO just shoot me an email, connect on a social network or leave a comment with your question. It would be my pleasure to help guide you in the right direction.

It was great to see the way brands were engaging with the show attendees, in particular one stood out to me. They created a multi-channel engagement campaign. I loved how it demonstrated the way to draw a consumer in and then have a way to bounce them back for future conversation.

The trolley inspired booth made me feel a little bit closer to Community Coffee’s roots in Louisiana

Community Coffee – Besides having a fun booth that perfectly reflected their brand, the 90 year old Baton Rouge family run business acted anything but old school. They offered an interactive app that asked attendees questions about their coffee consuming habits to determine what type of coffee you should drink. They captured your email address in order to share with you the results. I felt an instant connection beyond the excellent cup of coffee they graciously poured.

This could be the first of many relevant emails offered to me by Community Coffee. After all, they know I like coffee.

Green & Sustainability In my opinion it feels as if the “Green” movement is cultural, notice how some brands use their involvement as a reflection of the brand’s culture and is ingrained in their business model. It was a pleasure to witness that Green and Sustainability movements were not left behind and are more than just a fad. Often times hot topics become a popular way to piggy back trends to easily garner PR or free attention. Marketers love to jump on this without concerning themselves with doing it for the right reasons. Be real, don’t be phony or short sighted with your beliefs. Even though it might be popular, it isn’t easy being green.

Kids Live Well By far the biggest news of the show was the push for healthier food choices for kids. This included the National Restaurant Association launching it’s own app to help parents design healthier menu options. They were not the first to create such an app, considering the trend they will not be the last. I highlighted a few weeks back in a blog post a mobile app Out To Eat With Kids that helps parents locate affordable, healthy menu options for kids. They also offer assistance in finding Gluten Free meals.

Former President Bill Clinton kicked off the Healthier Kids Meal Conversation

Bill Clinton Yes, that Bill Clinton. Former United States of America President, Bill Clinton addressed the attendees to show is support for not only the restaurant and food industry but also to help kick off the Kids Live Well Program. The former President is part of the alliance for a healthier generation. He spoke about the need to break the cycle. The United States is dealing with increased health insurance costs in part due to obesity and diabetes, which is affecting Americans at alarmingly early age. Mr. Clinton spoke about the importance of offering affordable and healthy meals for students. On a positive note, he mentioned an 88% reduction in calories sent to our schools. This is a reflection of the attention and support provided by manufacturers and distributors.

“What works is cooperation” quote from former U.S. President Bill Clinton

The Kids Live Well program spearheaded by the National Restaurant Association was just one of many places to get information on how to create healthier kids meals.

Cooperate partnerships include Applebee’s, Chick-fil-A and Kraft Foods. The emphasis will only grow but you could already see efforts put forth by vendors to try and rally behind the industries new initiative. Many vendors have already been participating in helping restaurants not only serve healthy meals but also help educate parents as well. This year at the NRA Show a row of booths were reserved for Healthier Kidsfare. Here, you could find exhibitors who make healthy food options, help restaurants build healthy kids meals, offer educational materials for both parents & children, and also included vendors who help engineer healthy recipes to serve kids.

As a parent I am glad to see not only the restaurant industry but also the food manufacturing industry step up to the plate and make changes. Mr. Clinton left quite the impression with most attendees that I spoke with, what resinated most with my was the idea he suggested that a knife blade thin line existed between poverty and unhealthy food options. He preached about breaking the trend. This is one trend that I hope will not be followed but rather broken. It will take time, education and support to make a difference.

Did you attend this year’s NRA Show? What stood out in your mind and left a lasting impression. If you have questions or thoughts please leave a comment. I will share more from the show in future posts.

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