Munching and Learning at the Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo

September 7, 2017

Attendees brought their appetites for food and knowledge to the 2017 Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo, which took place August 27-29 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

More than 10,000 restaurant and foodservice industry professionals were on hand to explore the 100,000 square feet of exhibit space, boasting over 400 exhibitors, 220 of which were new to the show.

Newly appointed Event Director for Urban Expositions, Tom Loughran, was pleased with the turnout despite the record heat hitting the Southern California area.

“We have seen exceptional turnout for the show and a great representation of the industry right on the show floor with exhibitors, sponsors and attendees,” Loughran said.

He continued, “There has been a more international flavor this year, and a strong focus on local and artisanal beer, wine and spirits. This addition of beverage onto the show floor, both in the exhibit booths and the culinary demonstrations, has brought Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo into the next stage of the restaurant and foodservice industry lifespan.”

Jennifer Nelson, an attendee and consultant, was pleased with the array of trends represented on the floor.

“If you think of where the industry was even five years ago, the impact of trends on the industry is huge,” Nelson said. “I personally want to see the healthy food options, including vegan choices, and I plan on going over to the Healthy Food Pavilion to see what trends are on the horizon.”

New exhibitor Oumph! from Sweden had a large crowd at their booth looking to taste a plant-based protein alternative to chicken with the same texture, appearance and taste.

“As a newcomer in the U.S. market, we were excited to be able to have a booth,” said Will Hanner, Oumph! director of sales.

He continued, “In Sweden, this product is a staple on the menu and is listed as a ‘meat choice.’ We have seen tremendous interest in our product and being at Western Foodservice is a perfect fit for us to meet the right contacts and expand into the U.S. market.”

The Healthy Food Pavilion was one new area on the show floor, reflecting the demand from the industry to see healthy options in one easy-to-find section.

Another revamped item on the show menu: the introduction of new educational sessions, including “Building a Winning Team,” which addressed the issue of high staff turnover; “Increase Loyalty,” covering the use of marketing and social media to achieve a loyal customer base; “Operational Excellence,” which touched on automation and the use of AI, and “Hot Trends,” which included a whiskey sommelier demonstrating different ways to use whiskey in menu items and a tasting.

“We have seen a real interest in these types of educational offerings and we are looking at adding a Tequila Sommelier for future years,” Loughran said.

New products were also on display on the show floor.

Shark Tank veteran Cropsticks decided to exhibit for the first time this year.

“We are a two-year-old company based in both Los Angeles and Hawaii, and this show is a great opportunity to find partnerships,” said Ron Tansingco, Cropsticks co-founder.

He continued, “We are providing an experiential product and a different experience with chopsticks, as well as bringing a traditional aspect of Japanese dining to a wide audience. In fact, Cropsticks has recently partnered with Disney to have branded Cropsticks at the Aulani resort in Hawaii. This show gives us another way to increase brand awareness and continue to grow.”

Growth was on the mind of Summer Herrera, director of food and beverage for La Casita Café in Hesperia, CA.

“We are very interested in learning more about the use of social media and how to effectively use it in the industry, as well as understanding the new California compliance laws,” Herrera said.

She added, “And of course, we want to stay on top of new trends and see how we can incorporate them into our restaurant.”

With the idea of staying on-trend in mind, Urban Expositions announced during the show that it will be co-locating the event with the Coffee Fest Shows starting in 2018, a combination that will provide additional focus and education around the beverage industry, specifically for coffee and tea.

The Western Foodservice & Hospitality Show will return to the Los Angeles Convention Center Aug. 19-21.

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