The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Show is an annual three-day event for hospitality professionals to network, source, purchase and learn about new industry trends to follow, how to increase profits and how to ramp up their restaurant or lodging business to engage and serve customers in innovative ways.
This year’s event was originally scheduled for three days starting Sept. 10, but when event director Tom Loughran of Urban Expositions (which hosts the event) heard that Hurricane Irma would be making landfall in Florida that week, the show had to be rescheduled.
It was a smart move, Loughran told The Orlando Sentinel — the storm knocked out power and transportation in many parts of the state for days.
During the rescheduled show, which took place Oct. 11 through Oct. 13, hundreds of exhibitors at the Orange County Convention Center plied their latest products and services for restaurants, caterers and food service establishments, with awards going to the most innovative. Show floor categories included equipment and restaurant technology as well as new food and beverage products.
A lot can happen in three days, but here’s a taste of what went down.
Overall Winner: Innovative New Product Gallery
The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Show’s top prize went to PayMyTab, a mobile app and device that enables diners to settle their checks from the comfort of their seats, whenever they’re ready, using their secure EMV chip-enabled credit card.
The mobile app and device also enable guests to split the bill and pay it, tip included, directly from their own smart device if they so choose.
For diners, that cuts out the awkwardness and confusion of sorting the bill themselves or having to ask the waiter to split it — especially if they forgot to mention they’re splitting until the first copy of the bill is already on the table.
Customers could arguably get the same benefit from a peer-to-peer (P2P) payment platform like Venmo, whose mission is to eliminate the awkward “Who’s paying?” part of socializing and let users get back to just hanging out with friends.
But restaurants that just let customers use Venmo may be missing out on some opportunities. PayMyTab (and systems like it) integrate with whatever point of sale (POS) and merchant account the restaurant is already using and supports the creation of loyalty, customer relations management (CRM) and retail marketing efforts.
For the waiter, too, giving the steering wheel to the customer eliminates the annoyance and frustration of split checks and other scenarios and can contribute to quicker service and table turnover, claims PayMyTab, since customers will not be waiting around for the check after they finish eating.
The company says its products can be used to improve management and staff coordination to drive efficiency, reduce mistakes and increase tips and overall profits by generating happy customers who come back for another meal.
The show also saw a few other exciting debuts, although nothing quite as futuristic as last year’s sushi-making robot.
Other new products that impressed included Oumph! a protein- and fiber-rich, plant-based product that comes in a range of shapes and consistencies and is loaded with iron — one of the nutrients vegetarians and vegans often miss out on; Betson Enterprise’s coin-operated arcade games and vending machines; Oceana Coffee and Elaine’s Gluten Free, starring Celiac-friendly pizza crust, tortillas and bread.