78th Annual Western Foodservice and Hospitality Expo Highlights


WesternExpoLogoThousands of restaurant and foodservice industry professionals, enjoyed three days of tasting new products, meeting with new vendors and attending education programs at the 78th annual Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo which was held at the Anaheim Convention Center. The event was sponsored by the California Restaurant Association, a partner of the National Restaurant Association.

“The energy and excitement on the show floor was fantastic, fueled by all of the special events and new product announcements,” said Ron Mathews, Industry Vice President for the Foodservice Events. “We thank our exhibitors, our attendees, our speakers, our new partners including the California Craft Brewers Association and ROAM Food Truck Academy and the California Restaurant Association. The event is more than a tradeshow; it is a complete learning experience that improves our attendees business throughout the year.”

Exhibitors were thrilled with the turnout of the event. Bill Schneider, Director of Marketing for Melissa’s had this to say: “We were very pleased with the results of the Show – we had more qualified leads on Sunday and Monday then we ever had before at this event. Monday drew a very strong professional crowd.”

Highlights of the event, included:

  • The CRA Educational Foundation’s Culinary Clash: Battle Anaheim raised more than $87,000 which will provide educational resources to more than 110 ProStart programs in California. Awards went to…
    • Golden Glove Champ – taste – Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Specialty Restaurants
    • Golden Plate Champ – presentation – Lazy Dog Restaurant and Bar
    • Equipment BlendtecChamp – use of Blendtec blender – ESPN- Zone
    • ProAct Secret Ingredient Champ – use of secret ingredients (Purslane and Pichuberry) – Lazy Dog Restaurant and Bar
    • Teamwork Champ – BJ’s Restaurants
    • Ecolab Champ – safety and sani – ESPN-Zone
    • Coca-Cola Champ – use of Coke product – Ruth’s Chris Steak House’
    • The Purse – raised most online for CRAEF – Lazy Dog Restaurant and Bar.
    Photos from the event can be found on the CRAEF Facebook page – www.facebook.com/craedfoundation.

  • A Hot Spot on the show floor was the expanded Food Trends Experience. Thousands of restaurant and foodservice professionals had the opportunity to see, taste, discover and learn about the new culinary innovations from 50+ companies that will inspire creative and fresh menu ideas. The design and grouping of these new brands and unique foods created an intimate environment where buyers and sellers could connect face to face on how these foods can impact menus. The award for Top Trend in the Food Trends Experience (FTE)was presented to Frozen Bean Frappe Blends for their Specialty Desserts and Beverages.
  • The Winners of the People’s Choice Awards for the Innovative New Product Gallery were also presented. Thousands of attendees voted for their favorite products. The first place winner was Pure Napkin for their biodegradable disposable napkin. The 2nd place winner was Fresh Origins for their fresh flower and herbs flavored crystals; and the 3rd place winner was Not Ketchup for their fruit ketchup dipping sauces. Marcella Varadi, Director of Sales & Marketing for Pure Napkin echoed exhibitor sentiment: “We had a wonderful experience. The show was full of people who were truly interested in our product and we met a lot of potential customers from large corporations to small restaurant owners. The results were beyond our expectations and we were thrilled to win best new product of the show!”
  • The $10K Giveaway – 15 lucky attendees were drawn from all entries to win a $500 or $1,000 product voucher to cash in for new products or menu staples from one of the Show’s 2015 distributor partners — US Foods. This program, offered $10,000 in redeemable vouchers to the following people: Renee Ehmcke, with Gambling Cowboy; Tina Piser with AJ Barile’s Chicago Pizza; Mariel Guzman; Victor Romero with The Westin Mission Hills Villa; Cary Chan with Something Healthy; Devin Curry with Harvest Moon; Mozella Lesley with Heavenly Cake Creations; Gary Lewis with The Pour House; Steven Calderon with La Perlita Mexican Restaurant; and Janice Davies with Pollos Maria.
  • Quad Giveaway – Sysco, one of the Show’s 2014 Distributor Partners gave away a Quad ATV to John Costello of Fresh Griller restaurant in Costa Mesa. Attendees, who stopped by Sysco’s booth to visit with their partners, taste new foods and take advantage of truckload deals were able to enter.
  • Thousands of attendees received free education during more than 30+ sessions at The Ferdinand Metz Foodservice Forum. Master Chef Metz moderated several standing room only panels including one on Fine Dining – Is It Dead? with chefs from Providence, La Valencia Hotel, Loews Coronado Bay Resort, Disney Resort, and Palmer Restaurant; and Big Brands Discuss Current and Future Menu Trends with representatives from BJ’s Restaurants, Logan’s, PF Chang China Bistro, and Rubio’s Restaurant.
  • Hundreds of attendees watched as rising star chefs competed in the Orange County Chefs Mystery Box Cooking Competition which was hosted by Brad Metzger of Restaurant Solutions. Chefs who participated included Mike Doctulero, Scott’s Restaurant & Bar; Eric Samaniego, Little Sparrow; and Paul Buchanan, Primal Alchemy Catering. Judges included Tricia Cook, Orange County Restaurant Association, Chef Jaime Gwen, Celebrity Chef; and Paddy Glennon, Santa Monica Seafood & Europa Specialty Sausages.
  • Show floor highlights included: theCalifornia Craft Brewers Association Pavilion- offering unparalleled opportunity to taste test from some of California’s leading craft brewers; TheROAM Food Truck Academy provided all the fundamentals needed to launch a successful mobile food business; and Expo Comida Latina – the industry trade event focused on the Hispanic retail and foodservice markets.
  • At the close of the Show, the exhibitors of the Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo and Expo Comida Latina donated thousands of pounds of food to Orange County Food Bank which works with over 400 local charities, kitchens, and community organizations to end hunger and malnutrition. Annually, the OC Food Bank is able to distribute nearly 20 million pounds of food.

Posted by Rachel Allan