About 60,0000 restaurant industry professionals began to converge on Chicago Saturday for the annual National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show, or NRA Show, which is in its 95th year.

Attendee numbers for this year’s conference, which runs through Tuesday, are on track with those of the 2013 show, said Leana M. Salamah, the NRA’s senior director of convention marketing and communications.

More than 2,000 suppliers filled more than 565,000 square feet of exhibit space in Chicago’s McCormick Place, according to Salamah. Exhibitors ranged from food and beverage, equipment and technology companies to providers of marketing, human resource, payment processing and other services.

Earvin “Magic” Johnson, a National Basketball Association Hall of Fame inductee, will give Sunday’s keynote speech at 1 p.m.

“Mr. Johnson is an inspiration to us all,” said Sam Facchini, convention chair for NRA Show 2014 and co-owner/co-founder of Metro Pizza in a pre-conference statement. “He didn’t let where he came from dictate where he could go. He has spent his life overcoming challenges and giving back to his communities. He is the embodiment of the American dream in general, and the spirit of the restaurant industry in particular.”


Among Johnson’s industry investments are SodexoMAGIC, a foodservice and facilities management company.

In addition to the keynote addresses, this year’s show includes a “Future of the American Dream” discussion at a Monday, May 19, breakfast with the NRA’s chief executive Dawn Sweeney, Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, Groupon chief executive Eric Lefkofsky, and Jenniffer Wesley, head of Google’s restaurant industry efforts.

The limited-seating event will look at how entrepreneurship is changing the industry, how charity and diversity can fit into a corporate strategy and how social media and technology can be leverage to create innovation.

The NRA also sponsors its inaugural Restaurant Finance Summit on Monday, May 19, which brings together restaurant financial executives and operators, Wall Street analysts, investment groups and lenders, and tax and accounting professionals.

The financial executives will discuss issues related to the financial health of the restaurant, foodservice and hospitality industry. The summit leads off with a noon-luncheon keynote presentation by Jonathan Tisch, chairman of Loews Hotels & Resorts.

Nation’s Restaurant News has dispatched editors to cover every aisle of the show. Follow the coverage at NRN.com and follow them on Twitter:

@NRNonline – For stories and photos

@Mark_from_NRN – Mark Brandau

@carolkrol – Carol Krol

@slockyerNRN – Sarah Lockyer

@FoodWriterDiary – Bret Thorn

@RonRuggless – Ron Ruggless

The International Wine, Spirits and Beer event is also being held in conjunction with the NRA Show. This year, the event moves to the McCormick center’s Lakeside Ballroom.

Contact Ron Ruggless at Ronald.Ruggless@Penton.com
Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless