Making the rounds: Attending trade shows expands your knowledge


Just coming off the high from CinemaCon, I am reminded why we attend trade shows. Our industry, like others, is always evolving. The last three years have been preoccupied with the digital conversion. This year the National Association of Theatre Owners’ trade show and convention in general were focused on wider issues and ideas, and it was a welcome change. Projection and sound equipment continue to evolve and the ideas are new and exciting, as the digital age has created new possibilities such as laser projection and 3D without glasses. The end of the digital conversion has not in any way slowed things down; in fact, it has teed us up for a constant environment of change—and trade shows such as CinemaCon’s help us keep up.

The trade show itself was busy and crowded, and this made for a great exchange between partners. There were new products in food and beverage such as Takis and media-infused glass cooler doors. There were many product and service ideas for alcohol bars and extended foodservice menus. The convention had great star-studded studio events to introduce future product, and meetings over meals between business partners were in abundance. This is often the best part of trade shows, when companies get a chance to get together outside the office.

Spring and summer bring many trade shows for us to attend and derive benefit from. The North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers (NAFEM) show happened just before CinemaCon, and the National Restaurant Association (NRA) event runs May 18-21. These shows cater to food manufacturers and hospitality, respectively, and they help us see new products and ideas in action. Many theatre companies have been attending the NRA show for years, since restaurant concepts are moving into the theatre as expanded menus continue trending.

The NRA event is a very large gathering which occupies McCormick Place in Chicago and offers food, equipment, technology and everything in between. It’s a good look at product and new concepts that is easily worth the registration fee. The NRA show also has a host of interesting, well-known speakers who move the experience beyond just the trade-show floor. Listening to perspectives on market trends and changes is a great accompaniment to the interaction with suppliers. The bonus is you can stay and attend the Sweets and Snacks Expo, which starts right after the NRA show closes, and really dive into the sweet side of the business. It makes for a great view of what is current in the market, which always helps us do our jobs. It’s important to get outside your laser focus on your own issues and methods and consider those from other operations.

But May is a busy month and there are shows to attend in our industry as well. ShowCanada runs May 28-30 and the Theatre Owners of New England are having a meeting with their first tabletop event for vendors. Both of these are focused on the theatre industry, as is CineEurope in Barcelona in June. CineEurope serves the European theatre market and is the primary event for the industry there, although many other events take place in separate cities throughout Europe. CineEurope has been around for many years and really took its place as an essential show to attend as the theatre industry in Europe began to expand dramatically in the early ’90s. If you do business in Europe, you attend this show. With the recent growth in Russia and Eastern Europe, this event has become ever more vital.

In July and August, the shows continue: the National Association of Concessionaires (NAC) show in New Orleans and Show South back at Chateau Elan, just north of Atlanta. NAC draws attendees from the theatre industry as well as stadiums and arenas and other venues, and Show South is a regional show for the Southeast part of the country. Other shows focus on technology, such as HITEC in Minneapolis this June, which brings together the technology companies servicing the hospitality industry. The main reason you consider attending these types of shows is to spread knowledge throughout your organization.

I have pointed out the shows that are familiar and pertinent to the food and beverage operations of theatres, but if you expand your inquiry to shows dealing with operations, purchasing, technology and real estate, you have a wide variety of choices. Trade shows bring business partners together and they can introduce you to new ways of thinking about your business. From an operational standpoint, attending trade shows that strengthen your business in all its aspects is a smart way to stay in touch with today’s constantly changing environment. With trade-show opportunities in cities across the country and abroad, you have the chance to participate in conversations that can revise or invigorate your strategies.

E-mail your comments to Anita Watts at