In an age of shrinking budgets and growing regulations, technology is the best answer to many restaurant management challenges. Tech can boost the profitability of your menu, manage your staff to better performance in less time, and turn first-time customers into loyal regulars with automated rewards programs.

“In my opinion if you’re not making technology your #1 priority at the NRA show, you’re missing the point,” according to Matthew Joseph, Technology & Information Systems Director for Fig & Olive.

But how do you decide what you need and where to find it? Next week’s National Restaurant Association Show is a great place to start.

Restaurant patrons with smart tech

Here are 10 expert tips to shop for restaurant technology at NRA:

1. Do research ahead of time

Find out who will be attending, Set Priorities based on your business challenges, and schedule ahead. Many vendors will allow you to book a meeting or connect with a key sales contact before the show even starts. And once you’re there, don’t forget to get a map.

2. Focus on your business needs

Focus on the trends and solutions that solve for your business needs. Here are 3 of our favorites

  • Menu Optimizations
  • Staff Management
  • Online Ordering

3. Be Social

Follow exhibitors, brands, celebrity chefs, and of course the NRA! Here are a few of our fvaorite:

  • @NRAshow: You should certianly follow the show’s official Twitter account.
  • @Gachatz: Grant Achatz, the mastermind behind world-renowned Alinea (right here in Chicago and an Upserve restaurant).
  • @GetUpserve: Learn about our newest products and solutions to help you run a more efficient restaurant

4. Ask for case studies

Don’t trust the sales teams. Learn exactly how others like you have become more efficient and profitable with the products.

5. Ask Tough Questions

Many solutions will look pretty, but will it solve for your problem?

6. Take advantage of free educational sessions

From designing your restaurant to presenting the most instragram-worthy menu, learn from the pros!

7. Get some free food

Some of the best chefs and foodies in the country will be in the same building as you! Take advantage of all the free offerings.

8. Enjoy the city!

There’s so much to do and see in Chicago and here are some great opportunities to check out more of the Windy City:

  • Go to the park! Millennium Park is most known for the Crown Fountain and Cloud Gate, commonly known as “The Bean.” With that said, they run concerts at the park and showcase cutting-edge art, architecture, and landscaping.
  • Eat all the food. Chicago is known for its mouthwatering food scene, and we at Upserve know this because many of our amazing restaurants are based there. Check out this article on Chicago’s most iconic dishes!
  • Walk it off! After you eat, go for a walk at one of Chicago’s top 10 walking tours. From art tours to beer tours to food tours galore, there’s plenty to choose from!


9. Follow up with connections

Hopefully you will have met a ton of smart, like-minded restaurateurs. So stay connected and continue those in-personal connections online.

For every solid contact I made I’ll find them on social media sites like LinkedIn and Twitter to stay connected and continue building the relationship. – Paul Hadfield

10. Implement a solution

Hopefully you’re excited about some of the solutions you learned about. The sooner you act and implement those, the more likely they will be to stick and benefit your business. Remember to prioritize- if you’re not sure how a new tool will help, you shouldn’t follow up.