Last weekend, thanks to the kindness of our owner, I joyfully attended the National Restaurant Association show in Chicago.
The NRA show is the largest annual gathering of the restaurant and foodservice industry and takes place every May at Chicago’s McCormick Place. This year’s show was vibrant, diverse, full of high energy and enthusiasm reflecting the hopes and dreams of so many people, exhibitors and attendees.
The range of exhibitors was staggering. They were in the thousands, ranging from savvy millennials featuring cutting edge technology to those showing the latest in non-GMO Jasmine rice. The exhibitors and attendees showcased the industry for what it is – an amazing collection of dedicated individuals wanting to serve or enable the service of food to hungry consumers all across the country during three distinct times in a 24 hours period – at breakfast, for lunch, and during dinner.
The food service industry is a $799 billion industry. There are over 1 millions restaurants in the United States. The industry employs over 14.7 million people which equals to 10% of the U.S. workforce employed in foodservice. This means 1 out of every 10 persons in America is involved in activity related to ensuring a stranger’s hunger is satiated for a small fee!
More stats – In 1955, the restaurant industry comprised 25% of the family food dollar. In the present, that number has risen to 47%. Think about it – for every dollar spent on food, $0.47 cents go toward a restaurant experience.
As I was checking out exhibitors I saw this wall which made me stop and reflect on why I like the restaurant industry so much. After 25 years of being active in this business, I am guaranteed one thing – every day is same yet every day is a very different day.
The restaurant industry is one of the few industries where with the right spirit, tenacity, hard work, and common sense you can go from being a dishwasher to a CEO. Where, as a new immigrant you can start a business and capture the heart and smiles of people with food from your homeland.
Many of us, regardless of tenure or title remain humble because of this industry. You never know when you walk into your restaurant and have to unclog a toilet, or wipe down a table or take the trash out. It doesn’t matter how many degrees you have or how big your paycheck is. When that moment comes to take action, you just do it. You take that towel and wipe down the spills or pick up the broom for a cleaner floor!
When I put on an apron, I am ready to serve. And at that moment, my only desire is to create a memorable experience for a complete stranger. One that will make their day better and mine too! The restaurant industry really is a gift that keeps on giving back!