Case Study

Serving up the world’s largest foodservice show

the National Restaurant Show


Winsight Exhibitions


National Restaurant Association Show

Every year, the National Restaurant Association Show (aka the Show) brings together foodservice professionals and restaurant operators for celebrity-led demos, exhibits, sampling, workshops, education, and networking.

With more than 2,300 exhibitors covering 11 football fields of space, it’s no easy-bake recipe to produce this tasty event. So how did the Show, Freeman, and mdg, a Freeman company, cook up a five-star-worthy show?

The right marketing targeted the right audiences

The National Restaurant Show launched a strategically targeted marketing and advertising campaign that connected pre-show advertising messages to the exhibitor and attendee experience on site.

“The main headline of this campaign was, ‘The Show for Foodservice. The Show for You.’ We wanted to make sure the entire industry knew the Show was for them, not just for independent and chain restaurant operators.

– Emily Golding, mdg, a Freeman Company

The Show thought local but marketed global

There was an international campaign that targeted countries based on a priority of factors such as likelihood to attend/travel, trending products, and distribution opportunities.

In addition to paid media, email, and other digital and creative content, the international campaign also included a delegation program where the National Restaurant Show partnered with prominent foodservice professionals to help bring in larger groups.

The event experiences lived up to the previews

The pre-show marketing and communications were carried over to the show floor and throughout the experience for exhibitors and attendees.

“Working with Freeman and mdg helped ensure that all materials came out as expected, especially when going from digital (pre-show) to print (show floor) such as images and colors.”

– Lisa Malikow, SVP Event Operations and Programming, Winsight Exhibitions

Purposeful planning led to hassle-free logistics 

With a foodservice show, there are special, logistical needs and unique challenges to ensuring every aspect runs smoothly.

Move in and out included the standard freight, electrical, hanging signs, and general installations. But specialized challenges included refrigeration, running water, and exhibitor placement, among others. Everything was delivered on time and on budget, meaning no surprises for exhibitors. And that made everyone happy.

The international delegates had an easier time with travel logistics, thanks to mdg, a Freeman company, and the National Restaurant Show maintaining a relationship with the U.S. Department of commerce — which supported travel planning and funding efforts.

Exhibits gave attendees innovative and immersive experiences

Everything from event production with expert AV and content delivery to design — every piece worked together to create the ultimate foodservice experience.

With multiple activations and four active theaters, it was essential that the creative, design, feel, flow, and logistics were consistent across the event.

This included the Innovation Showcase where progressive companies showcased an array of the latest technology.

From measuring cup to measuring up

“We were very excited to meet our qualitative and quantitative metrics for the Show in terms of booth space — the surge that we had in net square footage in particular. Also, with many of the attendee metrics that we had set for ourselves including total attendance, including the increase in international attendees.”

– Lisa Malikow, SVP Event Operations and Programming, Winsight Exhibitions

Show objectives Show results
  • Retain core audiences
  • Grow larger chains
  • Reach underrepresented segments
    (retail/c-store, non-commerce, young professionals)
  • Communicate its value for the industry as a whole (beyond chain and independent restaurants)
  • 94% of square footage rebooked during the Show for next year
  • 12% increase in exhibitor square footage compared to previous year
  • 61% of this year’s exhibitors were new
  • 15% increase in international attendance over previous year

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