May Show Recap: National Restaurant Association Show, The Car Wash Show, Coverings and More

June 20, 2019
National Restaurant Association Show

From the latest healthy snacks to new car wash technologies and trends in tile, May was a busy month for trade shows and associations. Here’s a recap of five that posted great numbers last month.

National Restaurant Association Show

The centennial year of National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show, one of the most anticipated events in the foodservice industry, was one to remember — not least for the 23-foot-tall, 1,200-pound birthday cheesecake in the middle of the show.

The event drew more than 42,557 attendees to Chicago’s McCormick Place from May 18-21, including restaurant operators, retail foodservice professionals, equipment dealers, food distributors and more, marking a 3-percent increase over last year. The 100th show saw record exhibit space sales for the fifth year in a row, occupying 725,869 square feet this year.

“Besides the record exhibit sales and strong attendance growth, the energy on the show floor was palpable,” said Mary Pat Heftman, president of the Restaurant Show Group at Winsight, owner and producer of the show. “Education sessions were standing room only; there were delicious new foods at every turn; and once again, ingenuity was on display everywhere you looked.”

The show will return to McCormick Place next May with a major addition: a fourth exhibit hall, announced at this year’s show.

“The demand this year exceeded the available exhibit space,” Heftman explained. “To accommodate the many exhibitors that want to join the show, and allow for booth expansion among current exhibitors, we simply need more space.”

Sweets & Snacks Expo

Sweets & Snacks Expo

The 21st annual Sweets & Snacks Expo overlapped the National Restaurant Association Show by one day, also taking place at McCormick Place from May 21-23. As the main event for the confectionary and snack industry, hosted by National Confectioners Association, the show features many new product launches and innovations in merchandising each year.

More than 15,000 candy and snack professionals, plus more than 800 exhibitors (including 200 first-timers) attended this year’s show, which covered a massive 4 acres in the convention center.

“With hundreds of innovations, insights and ideas to transform the world of chocolate, candy and snacks, Sweets & Snacks Expo is the most important annual event in the industry,” said Carly Schildhaus, NCA spokesperson. “Sweets and snacks manufacturers have always been at the forefront of defining outstanding consumer experiences, setting trends, and delivering a wide variety of options and choices.”

The show has evolved greatly over the last decade, with many more natural food and healthier snack companies exhibiting. For example, winners of the show’s annual Most Innovative New Product Awards included snacks such as organic almond-butter-covered almonds from Justin’s, and chocolate-covered whole fresh frozen raspberries from Tru Fru.

This year, a newly redesigned Destination Retail experience also highlighted the latest technology driving shopper engagement, and demonstrated how stores can create more appealing displays for customers.


The Car Wash Show

The Car Wash Show 

After being in Nashville in 2016, The Car Wash Show again returned to the city this year, May 13-15, for its largest show ever, occupying 168,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space.

“Nashville is a fun city with a ton of hometown charm, and the friendly, energetic vibe matches our show and our industry completely,” said Kim Vinciguerra, vice president of events for International Carwash Association, which hosts the show.

She continued, “We were so excited to come back to Music City Center — it’s such a great, open space with access to tons of hotels and amazing food and entertainment.”

Country cuisine and music acts aside, this year’s show featured an enhanced program structure and expanded education lineup that was focused on technology, marketing, talent management and business strategy for its 9,500 attendees and 400 exhibiting companies. Through the redesigned program, attendees had the chance to purchase basic or premium passes, or a new “member experience” pass (for International Car Wash Association members) that gave access to more events, such as Peer Power Hours, which were attendee-driven discussions and panels. Those who purchased the member experience also got exclusive trade show time and other VIP perks.

On the last day of the conference, the premium education pass included Wrap-Up Workshops, which were “a great way to bring all [the education at the show] together, analyzing and absorbing the information they would take away and apply to their operations,” Vinciguerra said.

National Hardware Show

National Hardware Show

Serving the home improvement industry as the largest B2B event for networking and products, National Hardware Show gathered nearly 15,000 manufacturers, distributors, retailers, wholesalers and independent retailers for the 74th annual show at Las Vegas Convention Center, held May 7-9.

New interactive experiences were a major highlight of this year’s show, including the Smart Home, in which attendees could experience first-hand some of the industry’s most buzzy products and simulate a realistic buying experience.

“The 2019 National Hardware Show was a huge success because it created a variety of opportunities for professionals within the industry,” said Rich Russo, industry vice president of the show. “We are proud to host a Show that is at the forefront of the industry and continues to provide inspiration, new ideas and connections, innovation and insight.”

He added, “It was inspiring for us to see so many industry professionals from all over the world come together here at NHS.”

Another favorite area of the show was The Backyard Marketplace, located in the Tailgate, Backyard & BBQ section, where attendees could relax and enjoy amenities like snacks, a hydration station, music and entertainment.



The largest international tile and stone conference in North America, Coverings, experienced strong growth at its 30th annual show, which took place at Orange County Convention Center in Orlando from April 9-12. This year’s event saw 27,000 professionals from more than 90 countries, marking an 8.6 percent increase over last year.

Almost 1,100 exhibitors showcased their latest products across nearly 480,000 sq. ft. Distributors attendance was up 9 percent from 2018, while the number of architects and designers, builders and remodelers, contractors and installers, fabricators and retailers grew by 10 percent.

“The significant uptick in attendance at Coverings is certainly a strong indication of the health and vitality of the tile and stone industry,” said Jennifer Hoff, president of Taffy Event Strategies, which manages Coverings. “It was particularly meaningful to see such strong attendee numbers as we celebrated three decades of Coverings.”

To drum up excitement for next year’s Coverings, which will take place in New Orleans from April 20-23, 2020, the show concluded with a second-line parade complete with festive Mardi Gras beads and a marching band.

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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.