It’s business as usual at the National Restaurant Association Fair

The National Restaurant Association’s annual trade show took McCormick’s place this past weekend, with both vendors and attendees—mostly unconvincing—doing their best to pretend that the entire restaurant industry was back to normal, or at least what was normal in 2019. Vendors showed From plates, cookware, grills, stoves, chef jackets, patio heaters, name cards, mixers large enough to accommodate a small adult, vegetarian meats, non-alcoholic canned cocktails, eco-friendly eating containers, and modern POS systems (some connected to bitcoin), urinal screens—everything a modern restaurant could need, and some of the things it could probably do without.

Anything the restaurant might need was for sale.

In the keynote on Saturday afternoon, Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian (and Serena Williams’ husband) advised restaurant owners to appeal to customers’ sense of FOMO, or the fear of missing out, by creating special, one-of-a-kind experiences, including rotating menus and limited-run items.

But most of the items shown were variations of things that already existed. It is up to consumers to determine whether it tastes better or works more efficiently.

health

The WizKid Splash Hog urinal screen prevents splashes, but antimicrobial mats also exist, just in this case. Meanwhile, Gabinetto’s table-side shelves from Noveltia keep bags off the floor. The mannequins are for display purposes only.

food alternatives

The Blind Tiger, based in Erie, Pennsylvania, makes Prohibition-era bottled cocktails that are soulless (which seemed to be the whole point of Prohibition-era cocktails, at least officially?). The name comes from the practice of underground pubs leaving stuffed tigers in the window to indicate that illegal booze became available hours later. Meanwhile, Yondu is a vegetable flavor enhancer that serves the same function as other umami-rich anchovies, aged cheese, and shrimp paste except for animal protein: It’s made with soybeans and eight different vegetables. Meanwhile, plant-based meats are now outdated, but soybean proteins by the butcher are extraordinarily tasty.

Four bottles of Art Deco labels lined up on a table.

Blind Tiger’s soulless Prohibition era cocktails will be available in Chicago soon.

A bottle of spices next to two red tubs of gochujang paste.

Umami seasoning is available for vegetarians.

Display boxes of industrial meat and meal sets made of industrial meat.

Before the butcher was one of the gallery’s vegan protein group.

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