Western Foodservice and Hospitality Expo Brings Industry Together

September 3, 2016

The 2016 Western Foodservice and Hospitality Expo was held Aug. 28-30 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The show has been running for 80 years, first as part of the California Restaurant Association, and currently with Urban Expositions.

“Our show is designed for anyone who is looking to learn about new trends in the industry,” said Ron Mathews, vice president, Urban Expositions. “But the show is also great for gaining knowledge on business tactics and growth. We cover both the art of menu preparation and cooking and the science of business profitability.”

This year’s show brought roughly 10,000 attendees and 400 exhibitors, who engaged together in 100,000 square feet of exhibit space. This is an approximate 3-percent increase from last year’s attendee numbers. The show also drew a strong regional and U.S. base, in part due to being in Southern California, a hotbed for testing and experimenting in the culinary world.

A new area at the show was the Food Trends Experience, where new exhibitors were able to introduce new products, get feedback, and have a cost effective option to exhibiting at the show. First-time exhibitor Naomi Posner-Horie, owner of Mami’s Gelato, exhibited in the Foods Trend Experience area to introduce their new product: Froconut gelato. Said Posner-Horie.

“The Southern California location was ideal for us,” Posner-Horie added. “We are located in Indiana, and we wanted to introduce our product to the west coast. And the set-up of the Food Trends Experience is very conducive to doing this as a lower cost option. We knew this was the show to bring our vegan gelato, which is prepared as a true gelato, and have been getting great feedback on the product.”

“There are two big themes we are seeing in the industry: a focus on ideas related to sustainability, and the local food movement,” Mathews said. “There is a focus on sustainable serving products and carbon footprint impact, and supporting local farmers and producers.”

These themes were seen on the showfloor, as well as a focus in other areas for food preparation. There were several vegan options to sample, in addition to low-salt, gluten-free, and simple ingredients and easy-to-prepare food choices.  Another area of focus was on healthy eating in restaurant dining, especially for children.

The new product showcase attracted many exhibitors with new items to introduce. Attendee Maher Elias, owner of Gourmet Genie, came to the show specifically to see the new trends in culinary.

“I have both a restaurant and food truck, and I wanted to see what new ingredients and preparation are popular, and to see how I might include them in either one of our food delivery options,” Elias said. “The show is a great place to see what the trends are, and how they can be used.”

Many attendees also made it over to the new Beer, Wine & Spirits Pavilion, which focused exclusively on the latest mixology trends and how to maximize a beverage menu. If you were interested in any samples, cooking and prep stations were working at full capacity to meet the attendee demand. 

A popular agenda item was the Culinary Clash, where chefs faced off in a cooking competition, set up right in the midst of the show floor. To add some spice to the event, restaurant teams were paired with a ProStart student or graduate, who had the opportunity to act as a sous chef.

While this is primarily a domestic show, an international flavor was not to be missed in both the Japan Pavilion and the Sabor Latino Pavilion, where products, foods, and flavors were available for attendees to sample so as to learn more about these ingredients.

Attendees were not shy with asking questions and showing their interest for the exhibitors. Exhibitor Sheila Crandell, director of sales at Villa Dolce Gelato Italiano agreed. “The level of engagement is great, the attendees have great questions, and we have the opportunity to talk to the decision-makers where they can sample our products first-hand,” Crandell said. “This is our second time exhibiting at the show, and we are excited to get in front of those key contacts.”

“This show is an industry staple annual gathering, and both attendees and exhibitors really make the most of it by sharing knowledge and culinary inspiration,” Mathews said.

The International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York will take place March 5-7 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York. The 2017 Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo will be held Aug. 27-29 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. 

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