NRA: This Year’s Highlights, Trends and Must-See Booths of 2022

By: Brittany Maroney


Take a quick dive into the happenings and surprises from this year’s biggest event

The National Restaurant Association Show was back, and in a big way! The halls of McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago were packed with tens of thousands of eager food-loving fans, and countless booths lined the three enormous tradeshow floors, spread across the campus’s world-class facilities. Central to the event was the return of food vendors, pushing samples amidst the chaos of technology brands and kitchen equipment purveyors. 

Yes. The magic was back at the industry’s leading food-service event, as well as a showcase for all of the new restaurant crazes now that the pandemic is in our rear-view. And no conference is complete without us rounding up our favorite trends that we think will sway the sector, moving into the second half of the year. 

Meatless Madness Is Here to Stay

Plant-based protein is nothing new to the NRA Show but this year it stood out as a key trend, with countless new companies promoting products that mimicked everything from shredded beef, to chicken nuggets, to fish sticks. With over 62% of consumers saying they’ll eat more plant-based food this year, it’s hardly surprising to see it prominently displayed on the showroom floor. One shift was pervasive among these brands. Gone are the days when they attempt to convince consumers that they are healthier. Now the messaging centers around sustainability and environmentally conscious production and packaging. Plant foods are definitely here to stay, but many still remain challenged with meeting consumers’ expectations in flavor and taste. 

POS as the New Restaurant Hub

Moved to the south hall, the technology center was brimming with new and steadfast brands, all showcasing their latest acquisitions and newest tech. With restaurant concepts drowning in techstacks that have to be cobbled together across multiple solution providers, more operators are looking to their POS partners to provide more unified options that help drive day-to-day sales. Brand consolidations, like the one that PAR Technology offers, provide enterprise-level restaurant brands with better solutions that can enable back-of-the-house to front-of-the-house integrations, creating more seamless functionality within their infrastructure. It’s a win-win for the brands as they continue to seek innovation, yet don’t want to sacrifice time to implement new solutions. This is sure to be a rising trend as concepts get savvier across all of their existing platforms.

Meet the Next-Gen of Kitchen Automation

You couldn’t walk the convention without tripping over at least one robot dog, waiter, or delivery device. Still, robotics aren’t the only thing at play when it comes to innovative tech within the restaurant space. Attendees also were treated with a myriad of next-gen, automated solutions, including cooking robotics, kitchenware with wireless connectivity, enterprise-level cooking management that automated temperatures and times, as well as solutions that helped mediate BOH staffing issues. With the challenges many operators face with attracting kitchen crew, automation, as well as BOH food management, inventory and scheduling solutions combined with kitchen automation offer relief to many brands. Data Central is a prime example of how these solutions will bring a rise in modernization to old school issues.

Centralizing the Guest Experience

Last but not least, while Covid may be behind us in many ways, the consumer experience has definitely changed, leaving in its wake the challenge of how to provide the best guest experience across a vastly changed landscape. Loyalty and guest experience were on everybody’s lips, and the industry is about to be rocked with increasingly more brands rolling out innovative loyalty solutions. The surprise will be that these new programs are about to be implemented not just across QSR and the fast-food space, but we will also start seeing it at full-service dining concepts. Solutions like Punchh remain a hot commodity as brands seek to further innovate existing programs and deliver more of an omnichannel experience. PAR’s loyalty and engagement solution Punchh, just recently announced several new customers, including brands like Snooze an A.M. Eatery, Carl’s Jr. and Hardees. There’s no doubt that loyalty will continue to be on our radar, even heading into next year’s NRA conference, and we can’t wait to see how it continues to evolve.

To learn more about PAR’s unified commerce solutions, visit us at or to explore Punchh’s loyalty, offers, and engagement program, take a free demo today. 

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