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Guide to the National Restaurant Association Show 2022

Guide to the National Restaurant Association Show 2022

Since 1919, the National Restaurant Association Show (NRA) has been a must-attend event for the foodservice industry. After a two-year hiatus, the largest trade show for hospitality is back and better than ever for 2022.

Held annually at McCormick Place in Chicago, the show spans three different buildings on four floors. The 2022 show boasts over 1,300 exhibitors (find Lightspeed at booth #6265 in the tech pavilion), as well as food and beverage demos, two awards ceremonies, a kitchen showroom, nearly two dozen educational sessions and a keynote speech by Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian. 

For anyone attending the NRA show for the first time, we’ve compiled some tips for navigating this massive and inspiring show.

The key to a successful show experience includes:


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Create a game plan ahead of time

The NRA show is not your average restaurant trade show. The sheer size of it can be overwhelming, so the key to a great show experience is creating an itinerary for yourself before you even land in Chicago.

Here are a few tips for crafting your schedule.

Prioritize your must-see list

Due to its sheer size, it’s just not possible for any one person to see everything NRA has to offer (the organizers recommend at least two full days just to walk the floor), so start creating your itinerary by choosing the sessions, demos and exhibitors that are a can’t-miss for you, and then build the rest of your schedule around that.

When building your schedule, be sure to refer to the show map to make sure you have enough time to get from one event to the next. If you plan to attend back-to-back sessions check that they aren’t too far away from each other. We can’t stress enough how huge this show is!

Pro tip: Coming to the show with a group? Attend different sessions that overlap so everyone can take notes and share what they learn.

Be flexible with changes

Like with most events, the unexpected could happen and schedules are always subject to change. For the latest updates and event changes, sign up for text alerts from the show (just scroll to the bottom of their website). You’ll receive the most up-to-date information right on your phone so that you can make last-minute itinerary adjustments as needed.

Leave time to explore

While you’ll want to have a game plan in place, make sure you schedule in a block of “free time” so that you can explore the show floor. There are likely to be a lot of exhibitors that you haven’t heard about yet, so give yourself some time to discover possible new vendors, learn a new cooking technique or check out the latest in restaurant technology. 

Designate a meeting place

With thousands of people in one building, cell phone reception can become unreliable even on the best networks. If you’re coming with a group of people, be sure to designate periodic meeting times and places in case you get separated and can’t get a hold of each other.

As much as you prepare for the show, it’s always possible that something may come up that you didn’t prepare for. When you’re planning your schedule with the show map, make a note of where the first aid office and information booths are located so you know where to go if you need assistance.

The Chicago River with a bridge and skyscrapers in the background.


Bring the essentials

If there’s one guarantee during NRA, you will be walking—a lot. The show’s dress code is business casual, but the most important element of your outfit will be your shoes. Make sure you are wearing sturdy, comfortable, broken-in shoes to the show to minimize fatigue. For attendees who are unable to walk for long periods of time, the show has partnered with Scootaround for mobile scooter rentals (more information can be found on the show’s FAQ page).

In addition to your clothing choices, come prepared with a few essentials just in case. While the first aid tent is available, it doesn’t hurt to keep some bandages and sanitizer on hand for minor cuts and scrapes. We also recommend carrying a bottle of water with you to avoid dehydration and keep your energy levels up. 


Pace yourself

There are so many food and beverage samples to choose from at the show that many attendees don’t even plan for lunch or dinner. While you might want to head straight for the food fair and try everything right away, try spreading out your visits throughout the week so you have time to try everything without having to stop for a nap.

As for the beverage booths, it’s a smart move to save them for the end of the day for the same reason. A couple of cocktails too early in the day are going to cause you to crash and can make the second half of your day less than enjoyable.


Visit Lightspeed at the 2022 National Restaurant Association Show

Lightspeed will be at booth #6265 in the tech pavilion and we’d love for you to come by and say hello. While at the booth you can get a personalized demo of Lightspeed Restaurant, redeem a special show-exclusive promo and more. To get started before the show, book some time to chat with one of our experts today.


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