- The National Restaurant Association Show has been canceled due to coronavirus concerns, according to a National Restaurant Association release emailed to Restaurant Dive. The 2020 show, originally slated for May 16-19 in Chicago, will not be rescheduled.
- Exhibitors and registered attendees will receive further instructions on April 7, according to NRA's website. Information regarding refunds for show booths and cost of entry were not available at press time.
- "We recognize the critical importance of the Show to the industry and we know that this will come as a disappointment to those who had planned for months to attend. While it is not the outcome we wanted, amid all the uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic and the immense strain it has put our industry, the safety of our attendees, exhibitors, sponsors, vendor partners and our own staff is paramount," the statement says.
The NRA Show's cancellation is COVID-19's latest blow to the restaurant industry.
The association is made up of over 1 million restaurant and foodservice outlets, and represents 15.3 million industry employees. Each year, thousands of restaurant exhibitors, analysts, investors and food manufacturers descend on Chicago's McCormick Place Convention Center to learn about the trends shaping the market and make new partnerships.
The fact that the show has been cut outright and not postponed makes clear that this year, COVID-19 will be the only trend of significance for the restaurant space.
The NRA's decision doesn't come as a surprise — conferences and trade shows across business sectors have been pulled or postponed in droves — but the decision could be devastating for equipment vendors and foodservice providers and distributors who plan their yearly budget around the cost of their show booth, sample giveaways and advertising around the event.
PathSpot, a restaurant technology startup, told Restaurant Dive that last year's NRA Show was pivotal for building a base of new customers and press for their hand-scanning product, which they were showcasing for the first time.
"We're especially disappointed we won't have the opportunity to attend this year as we were very excited to share significant progress updates and showcase new products. We were also looking forward to reconnecting in person with our partners across the restaurant industry and creating new partnerships, as this is the show that brings everyone together," Christine Schindler, PathSpot CEO, said in an email to Restaurant Dive.
It's unclear if and to what extent these exhibitors will be refunded the cost of these show investments, and this information will likely be shared in the NRA's April 7 email to participants. But beyond the financial loss of the event's cancellation, there could be a vacuum of idea-sharing and forecasting among industry leaders this year, which could further undermine the restaurant market's ability to bounce back from the impact of novel coronavirus.