This weekend, Dallas will host the largest restaurant industry trade show in The South—the second largest in the nation—at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center. Put on by the Texas Restaurant Association, the event is estimated to bring more than $2 million to the local economy by way of venue costs and anticipated spending on food and lodging.
“For an industry-specific trade show like ours, it’s not an insignificant amount that it brings to the city over the course of two-and-a-half days, said Joe Monastero, COO of the Texas Restaurant Association.
Those expected to attend include restaurant owners, chefs, managers, and heads of wine and mixology from roughly 18 states and Mexico. TRA expects more than 5,000 people to attend the show from every segment of the restaurant industry. In previous years, about one-sixth of attendees were connected to fast-casual and quick-service restaurants, and roughly a third were with full-service establishments.
Much of attendee and vendor spending will funnel back into local restaurants in the surrounding area. And at a time when the industry is still recovering from pandemic-induced wounds, the influx of hospitality spending, education, and exposure will be welcome.
According to Forbes, a U.S. Census report showed the pandemic as having damaged restaurants’ and bars’ sales by up to $280 billion. Although the Texas restaurant industry fared better than most, local eateries continue to struggle with the supply chain and labor shortages.
“The hiring and staffing issue is real,” said Mark Maguire, founder of Addison-based Maguire’s and owner of Maguire Holdings. And supply chain issues are a “daily hoop-jumping contest,” he added.
Maguire’s is part of the full-service segment that has been trying to make a comeback since restaurants reopened. Fast-casual and quick-service restaurants have fared better than full-service establishments during the pandemic. But many restaurant owners, like Maguire, believe full-service is here to stay. “I believe there will always be a place for full-service dining,” he says. He cites convenience and fellowship as factors that will help fuel demand.
Many of the educational segments at the show will center around current industry challenges. “We will be addressing—through most of the exhibitors and education sessions—ways to become more efficient while still delivering that great experience,” said Emily Knight, president and CEO of the TRA. “That’s what people are really thirsty for.” Topics this year include hiring and staffing, ghost kitchens, technology, and more.
Also planning to attend the show are Nicky Phinyawatana, founder and owner of Asian Mint, a Thai concept with a handful of North Texas locations, and Rose Broussard of Off the Bone Barbeque in the Cedars.
The event will also include the Lone Star Bash and the Texas Restaurant Awards on Sunday, recognizing restaurateurs across categories including Rising Star, Community Impact, and more. Nominees from Dallas include Tiffany Derry, owner of Farmers Branch restaurant Roots Southern Table, and Christian Dortch, executive chef at Knox steakhouse Georgie by Curtis Stone.
“I’m really looking forward to the Lone Star Bash,” Maguire said. “And I am looking forward to a couple of these education sessions, in particular just to try to catch up on and stay current on what’s going on in the industry.”