I spent two days at the Javis Center for the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York on both March 5th and 6th. Like most of the Hospitality shows that I go to in the city, it attracts people from all over the tri-state area.
I have been coming to this show for years and back in the early 2000’s the show was about double of what it is now. It has grown again in the last two years as they have let the food vendors back in the show. It is still only on the lower lever and you can walk the show in about four hours and that is being really detailed with your conversations with all the vendors.
Before that, for about ten years they kicked out most of the food merchants and the complexity of the show changed as why would come to the show and you are stuck just looking at furniture, menu and computer programing all through the show. There is so much more life to the show with food.
I spent my first day at the show walking the many aisles trying to see what new and innovative items were coming on the market for the industry. The most amount of development is in technology. The industry is stream-rolling ahead with computerizing the whole system from ordering to purchasing to receiving. More than a few firms have developed a procedure to streamline the system from when you place the order to how all the ingredients get purchased based on that order.
There were two companies that really impressed me amongst all the tech companies that I talked to that day, ChefTech and Touchbistro. Both are changing the way we do business by making it easier for us to integrate out business. Both make ordering both food and all the ingredients to cook and prepare that food much easier.
ChefTech has been the leader cost pricing menu items and integrating it with the purchasing to make it easier when ordering food items for a restaurant. Now the company is taking it one step further and adding it to the ordering of menu items and has streamlined the system to make it easier.
Touchbistro was the most interesting of the systems and took it one step further. Their Restaurant POS does it all. It handles cash management, bill splitting, take-out and delivery management, customer floor plan layout, seamless staff scheduling, accounting made easy, multiple payment processors, real-time cloud reporting and theft prevention settings. When you use the IPad, you can order your meal and the system will tell you what in it, how it is prepared and the calorie count and then will to track sales. Then on top of that, will set up a purchase order to reorder the item ingredients.
Both companies offer around the clock service which is nice because when the system goes down (and it always does just when you are getting busy on a weekend night), they are there for you. It is interesting to see the future of our industry is here now.
The show finally made a smart decision for the last two years and brought back the food vendors which are always popular with show goers. They featured a “New Vendors” section with new products that are coming on the market, a special “New York State” food vendor section, Wines & Spirits and the annual pastry competition sponsored by Paris Bakery.
Some of the standouts that I found this year were from all over the country. Kontos Foods Inc. from Paterson, New Jersey showcased their Homemade Loukoumades, a pre-baked, fully cooked and warm to serve Pastry Puffs, a small round doughnut hole food product that could be translated into several cuisines just by changing the sauce or topping. By doing this you can sell them as Loukoumathes (Greek), Beignets (French), Zeppoles (Italian), Malassada (Hawaiian & Portuguese) as many other ways. This were delightfully crisp and the toppings were delicious. A simple and easy dessert made better by the excellent quality of the product.
Kings Hawaiian showcased their delicious rolls and buns. I have been eating these for years but they had been tough to find on the East Coast. Now expanding with new bakeries in Torrance, CA and Oakwood, GA, the operation is expanding all over the USA. Their sweet rolls and buns are wonderful. Soft and fluffy with a touch of sweetness, they accent many types of salads and sandwich meats giving them an extra complexity. The afternoon I tried them, they had a delicious chicken salad that complemented the flavor of the bun nicely.
Another delicious local product was by Sukhadia’s of South Plainfield, NJ. They featured their ready made Samosa’s, which is a small crispy Indian snack. They are deep fried or baked with pastry and a savory filling , such as spiced potatoes, green peas, lentils, ground lamb or beef or chicken. They have a triangular size. These little appetizers will translate to any dinner party and are well-spiced and perfectly cooked. They also offer an interesting assortment of chutney’s, curries and Tandoori breads. For desserts and snacks, the company features Masala Nuts and Trail Mix and an assortment of Indian desserts. The family running the company could not have been nicer in explaining their product and sampling it to hungry show goers.
Brooklyn Patisserie in the New York State vendor section offered mouthwatering desserts and pastries. I was able to sample some of their croissant and sweet buns while fighting off the crowds. These buttery delights make all the awful gluten free items I had to eat all the more worth it. Their quality was excellent and they sell breads and rolls amongst their items offered.
Another delicious addition to the new products was Pasteleria Cidrines Inc. of Puerto Rico with their puff pastry delights, Cidrines. These small puff pastry products come with various fillings both sweet and savory fillings. Show goers were able to sample the Guava desserts and they were yummy. They were crisp on the outside with a sugary outside and a sweet fruity inside. They come in soy chicken and meat fillings and in Quesito, Guayaba and pineapple flavors. A nice way to end a meal.
Another unusual product was Immuneschein, a handcrafted ginger elixir that is made in the Hudson River Valley. These unusual extracts can be mixed with various products such as hot, cold and sparkling soda for a refreshing drink and with Yogurt to add a zing to it. They can also be added to spirits and alcoholic beverages to add a complexity to the drink.
A local product that I enjoy sampling is Joe Teas & Chips by Joe Tea out of Upper Montclair, New Jersey. These zippy teas and chips have a nice flavor to them with an assortment of flavors such as pink Passion fruit and Mango lemonade and the chips come in classic, barbeque, sour cream and sea salt and vinegar. Their chips have a nice crisp to them.
I was able to take a few classes while I was at the show. I took “Using Customer Engagement to double Customer visits” and “Develop the Right Hospitality Team”. I love the way new technology plays a role in all this advancement in the industry. I hate to say it but after almost twenty years in the Hospitality business a lot of the up and comers keep forgetting the true success of the business is to train people correctly, pay them fairly and treat them nice. That is the key to a happy staff. Treat them like ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen and it will go a long way. I really think everyone in my industry thinks its all about automation and gadgets but it is more about old-fashioned TLC and good treatment. That is the key to success.
The biggest thrill of the show was watching Danny Meyer, the CEO from Union Square Hospitality Group, getting the Torch Award, which is given to an individual or group whose achievements have enhanced and brought innovation to the restaurant and foodservice industry. I have been eating at the original Union Square Café for years and the food and service were always top-notch. All of his restaurants are high quality with excellent laid back service and delicious food. There is always something on the menu to like. He was being honored by my old president of the CIA (Culinary Institute of America), Ferdinand Metz (who taught me how to make the perfect soufflé when I was a student there).
It was interesting to hear how his career as a restaurateur started and how he had grown the business to the public offering of “Shake Shack”. He really mesmerized the crowd with his career and the best part was that they gave the audience a free copy of his book “Setting the Table”, which I had wanted to add to my cookbook and industry collection.
Overall it was a nice two days delving back into my industry to see the latest trends and to talk to the vendors and see their wares. The industry for all of its innovations still has to remember, watch costs, treat the customers and staff correctly and offer wonderful food at a fair price in nice surroundings and these are some of the keys of success in the Hospitality industry.