A Week in the Desert: NAC's Concession Expo stays on top of the trends

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Snack Corner

The National Association of Concessionaires (NAC) gathers its members annually to uncover the latest trends in the foodservice culture.  2017 is no different, with multiple facets for cinema operators. The objective for NAC at this year’s Concession & Hospitality Expo is to explore those trends so that foodservice managers continue to hone their knowledge and expertise.

NAC combines its ability to provide social events such as golf and cocktail parties with bringing together experts in various fields to educate the convention candidates. This year an overriding theme is the demands of the new generation of employees and customers, along with “finding your productivity in a world of interruptions.” While the tradeshow displays the latest products, a beer seminar suggests the best pairings of beer and food. NAC attendees do not leave without hands-on experience, via tours of venues that include the Harkins Camelview Theatre, the Sun Devil Stadium and Chase Field in Phoenix. The conference is all-encompassing and offers a variety of viewpoints.

The 2017 Concession & Hospitality Expo takes place in Scottsdale, Arizona in July—maybe the hottest month of the year; NAC can rightly claim it’s one of the hottest tickets of 2017! It will be held July 11-14 at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort, an elite property with multiple means to comfort attendees. The officials at NAC have used their expertise to gather the highest-rated professionals to offer their visions of the next steps in consumer practices. The presentations are multi-dimensional for individuals interested in consumer habits, hiring and training the next generation of employees, staying productive, adding product innovations or just plain networking with peers.

The event will start with a casual golf outing on Tuesday morning—who can go to Scottsdale without at least one round of golf? The conference opens officially with the annual fundraiser silent auction dedicated to Joe Chabot, a Michigan theatre proprietor who dedicated much of his time to the NAC cause of education. The second day offers a highly anticipated social event at Top Golf, one of the latest trends in combining entertainment and food and beverage—exactly what the theatre channel is trying to replicate in its facilities.

The keynote address will be delivered by Derrick Kayongo, a successful entrepreneur from Uganda. He and his family escaped the civil war there when he was ten years old. Kayongo offers his perspective on global health and sustainability. He founded the Global Soap Project, a program that recycles and purifies donated, melted-down hotel soap and then distributes it to needy populations around the world. This presentation will demonstrate that the simplest goods are valued by Third World populaces. Can we do similar things with other cinema byproducts?

Radesh Palakurthi, PhD, Dean of the Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality, and Michael Cheng, PhD of Florida International University, will be present for a panel discussion offering opinions on training and employing the Gen Z age group. Since everyone has reported on the Millennials, Gen Z will be the trend for 2017 and 2018. These professional educators will answer questions about how Gen Z thinks, acts and performs in their learning exercises. This session will be valuable to theatre owners attempting to train prospective employees.

June Jo Lee, a consultant to many foodservice operators and Google Food, will deliver her insights and opinions on providing the right culture for your foodservice. Lee is a member of Menus of Change and the Culinary Institute, with an M.A. degree from Havard. This will be the first time NAC has employed a food ethnographer to describe the habits of consumers. Lee will reflect on the philosophy of new services, programs and communication skills for theatre operators and their patrons.   

Randall Dean, MBA, will use his 20-plus years of experience to impart his knowledge of advanced principles of time management and personal organization. Dean is the author of Taming the Beast, where he describes the most efficient ways to manage your e-mails, office clutter and smartphone devices. He has taught a variety of versions to prominent organizations including Procter & Gamble, Westinghouse Electric Company and Volvo.

If that is not enough, NAC continues its tradition of venue tours, allowing members to share their best practices in cinema management, stadium operations and baseball campaigns. The NAC allows its members to cross-pollinate their policies and procedures to create the best options in each operation. These creative sharing programs give theatre operators a view of foodservice from a different angle. This opportunity does not always exist in other trade associations. Participants can compare and contrast their own exercises against those of other professional systems.

Dan Borschke, executive VP of NAC, states, “NAC’s recent approval of a new three-year strategic plan re-emphasizes the legacy goal of providing education and the interpretation of latest trends to the membership and industry throughout the globe. NAC serves its membership by delivering on that 73-year-old goal with state-of-the-art learning techniques and systems that make the education process adaptable and acceptable to every generation. The world is in disruptive mode and NAC vows to be an integral part of the concession industry as we all weather the storm together.”

As you can surmise, NAC is ahead of the trends by offering multi-faceted opportunities to prepare for the coming days. NAC offers perspectives on training, consumer habits, food ethnography and time management. This year’s trip to the desert in Arizona promises to deliver masses of food for thought.

Larry Etter is senior VP at Malco Theatres and director of education at the National Association of Concessionaires.