TRA Marketplace, the Texas Restaurant Association’s annual conference and trade show, is going all virtual this year to maximize its value for members of the foodservice industry during the COVID-19 pandemic. The event was originally scheduled to be held at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas. The dates are expanding to August 16-21 in order to accommodate a comprehensive slate of education sessions and exhibitor experiences.
As the largest food and beverage show in Texas, historically the TRA Marketplace involves more than 2,000 exhibitor and show staff, with an additional 3,000+ attendees. After collaborating with the City of Dallas and the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, all parties agreed that the 2020 show should move to a virtual experience to ensure all participants can safely take advantage of everything TRA Marketplace has to offer. In a time when restaurants are desperate for solutions to the challenges that operating in the COVID-19 environment brings, changing the format versus cancelling outright was the right decision.
Throughout the pandemic, the restaurant industry has lost an estimated 8 million jobs and $120 billion in sales. The TRA knows that the current pain and thirst for knowledge extends well beyond the borders of Texas. Knowing that travel is limited for most organizations, the TRA reached out to its network and is happy to announce that they have partnered with a growing list of other state restaurant associations who will promote the event to their own members. TRA has partnered with the Council of State Restaurant Associations, New Mexico Restaurant Association, Ohio Restaurant Association, New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association, Massachusetts Restaurant Association, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, and Iowa Restaurant Association. By moving online and partnering with associations from other states, TRA Marketplace becomes a national event, which will reach a whole new segment of our industry at a time when collaboration and innovation are paramount.
“Like our restaurant members, we have been proactive and creative in responding to these uncertain times,” said Dr. Emily Williams Knight, President & CEO of the Texas Restaurant Association. “The contactless TRA Marketplace will allow restaurateurs to explore and experience the emerging trends and technology solutions that will be vital to their ability to survive and thrive in the post COVID-19 world. While cancelling the show would have been easy, this is a time that restaurant leaders and suppliers need to come together to support one another. I’m proud of the TRA team for transforming this Texas-based event to a national experience that will include talks by experts and inspirational figures, educational conversations from thought leaders across the sector, and an opportunity for suppliers to provide robust product demonstrations to restaurant owners from across the nation. While we continue to fight for our industry’s survival, we must come together to plan and secure its future.”
The online trade show and conference will feature education keynote sessions and webinars, and a new feature for restaurant owners looking for solutions from suppliers. These brand experience sessions will be presented live and will consist of demonstrations from exhibiting companies with many of them providing materials that will arrive to attendees in the mail before TRA Marketplace begins. The brand experience sessions will provide attendees with a unique opportunity to learn about new products, interact with exhibitors, and find innovative solutions.
Speakers for education sessions this year include Chef Tim Love, Fermin Nuñez, Patrick Terry, Katherine Klapner, and leaders from Raising Cane’s, Black Box Intelligence, GrubBurger, Cheesecake Factory, Bread and Butter PR, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, Kitchen United, Asian Mint, Giant Noise, Bonton Farms, and many others.
The conference is free for all restaurant operators. Non-exhibiting suppliers may attend for $145. Exhibiting and demo sessions are still available; for more information, please contact [email protected].
The Hall of Honor and COVID-19 Texas Restaurant Awards will be presented during the TRA Marketplace week. Events surrounding TRA Marketplace, including the Lone Star Bash, will be rescheduled to a later date this year, with details forthcoming.