National Restaurant Association Show 2017: Postgame Wrap-up

National Restaurant Association Show 2017: Postgame Wrap-up

To round out our trade show series, here’s a recap of our experience at the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show last month. It was our first time exhibiting at a large show and we came away with some new perspective. Read on for our thoughts as well as our post-show strategy.


People refer to the NRA Show as the “show of shows” for the Food & Beverage space. Now we can see why. We’re confident that every industry need is being addressed in some way by the people there. Here are the top three things we enjoyed most:

The sheer immensity of the show

With a few shows under our belt this year, the NRA Show was by far the most bustling. It’s difficult to convey to those who weren’t there just how massive it was – the energy, the activity, the noise, the smells from food and drink stalls. There were thousands of booths to see with large packs of people everywhere, which meant you had to plan ahead or risk getting lost in the sea. Everyone we spoke to was friendly and truly curious about showcased products. With everything going on, the energy fueled us. We woke up every morning excited to start and ended the day spent.

In the afternoons when we served our happy hour samples, we became everyone’s favorite hangout. It was such a positive experience overall to see people reacting to our system – and going to retrieve their friends to show it off. Watching the lightbulb go off never gets old.

Getting to put a face to a name

Oftentimes when you’re connecting with others in your industry, the communication happens digitally. Technology makes it so easy to interact with people around the world without ever making eye contact. That’s why we love trade shows. Especially at the NRA Show, we really enjoyed meeting the industry media folks who have been communicating with us over the past few months. They would drop by, spend almost an hour chatting about our solutions and enjoy some samples. Even in a world of email, it’s nice to shake hands over wine.

Sampling, sampling, and more sampling

Thank you to the F&B powers that be for the food/tea/coffee samples or we may not have survived. We were lucky enough to have a booth near various treats that could sustain us throughout the day. And as a bonus, most sent us home with goodies as they were packing up.

As an exhibitor, it’s fun to walk around and see what other booths are doing in terms of décor and giveaways. We had a lot of fun with the different knickknacks – fidget spinners, stackable wine glasses, spatulas, bottle openers – and made sure to bring a few home for our team.


Having a strategy post-trade show is just as important as your pre-show preparation was. It’s important to take a breath and look at everything you learned with fresh eyes but you don’t want to wait too long and risk losing momentum. Here’s how we find the happy medium:

We hibernate for a little bit

The day you get back from a trade show is not going to be your most productive. Even if you feel freshly inspired, you have a lot bouncing around in your head. We like to jot down all of our thoughts and then back away for a day or two. When we come back, it’s easier to divide information into buckets and prioritize next steps.

This isn’t just for exhibitors strategizing their sales follow up. As an attendee, you can also benefit from a breather. Take a day or two to rest and go through your brochures then look at potential vendors and partnerships with fresh eyes.

We follow up with new contacts to keep the conversation going

The need to step away will often battle the urgent need to follow up. As a stop-gap, we send out a quick communication as soon as our contacts are entered into our CRM – someone on your marketing or sales team can handle this one. We want people to know that we haven’t forgotten about them and we don’t want to give them the chance to forget about us. After we’ve regrouped, we’ll follow up individually with the contacts we spoke to.

As an attendee, you can employ this tactic too. More often than not, you’ll be on the receiving end of a follow up email. Send out a brief response to the contacts you’d like to continue speaking with then take a break to organize your thoughts before following up with something more in depth.

We share our thoughts with the team back home

One of the best parts of returning to the office is telling everyone about our trip. After feeding off of the energy of the show for four days, it’s great to pass some of that along. This can include showing some photos and videos you took, bringing back fun giveaways, and just sharing a few stories. In most companies, only a handful of people get to attend trade shows but in our experience, everyone is interested in hearing about them.

As an exhibitor, we also take some time to assess how the show went overall and what the ROI looks like. In our industry, the sales cycle can be long but it’s important to keep our end goal in mind during planning, execution, and review.


Sestra exploring Chicago at the 2017 National Restaurant Association Show

That wraps up our trade show playbook. We’ve covered our pre-planning strategy, what we enjoy most about trade shows, and how we regroup afterward. Now we’d love to hear from you! Share with us your favorite trade show stories. How do you prepare, what do you enjoy, or do you have a postgame procedure?

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