Dining executive staff travels to National Restaurant Convention

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Three of BYU’s Dining Services executive staff traveled to Chicago recently for the 2011 National Restaurant Association Restaurant and Hotel-Motel Show, to improve BYU’s cutting edge service and techniques.

Dean Wright, director of Dining Services, John McDonald, executive chef, and Roland Nelson, sr. strategic sourcing manager, attended the event along with tens of thousands of industry professionals. According to show.restaurant.org, the show’s website, industry professionals from all 50 states, more than 100 countries and almost 2,000 exhibiting companies were in attendance. The conference is considered the largest and most comprehensive restaurant and hospitality industry trade show in the western hemisphere.

McDonald said his looks for upcoming trends with particular foods and equipment when attending the conference.

“It’s a great way to see what new products and items are coming out before many local areas have them,” McDonald said. “It’s a good way to get new ideas for menus, ingredients and even equipment. Everything from sauces and soup to vegetables and produce ideas, it’s all there.”

Wright said one new product BYU will be implementing shortly is a re-usable take-out container that can be used for box lunches. These boxes can be returned and reused. This product has been purchased and will be used for upcoming New Student Orientations.

Wright also attended seminars on the new menu board with the new healthcare act in preparation for changes in policy coming from federal guidelines.

According to the event’s website, this event can help attendees discover newly launched products and services as well as concepts that may become real in the near future.

Nelson said new trends are discovered because of vendors in attendance. It allows for interaction and association with new vendors.

McDonald said everything you can imagine concerning the food industry was there, including a new utensil called a “Chork.”

“The Chork is a chopstick that works like training wheels for a chopstick,” McDonald said. “You can eat on one end as a fork and the other end as a chopstick, or you can break it apart like chopsticks. This was just one of the interesting concepts we saw there.”

Wright and McDonald said other trends include a whole line of gluten-free products, new cleaning equipment that uses half the water but has more pressure to clean dishes, as well as Coca Cola’s new fountain machine that makes more than 100 possible flavors.

Wright said this year’s event was especially high in attendance and may be a sign that the food industry is bouncing back from the recession. New technologies, ideas and innovations displayed at the show support the fact the  industry is getting its feet back under itself, he said.

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