Our Top 5 NAFEM Show Takeaways

Exploring the Latest Innovations and Trends in Commercial Food Service Equipment & Supplies

Our Top 5 NAFEM Show Takeaways

Estimated Read Time: 3 Minutes

The NAFEM Show is a three-day exhibit showcasing the latest in commercial food service equipment & supplies (E&S) solutions for anyone in food service management and operations. As food service and operation nerds, we had to be there.

So, we joined the hoard of over 20,000 food service operators, dealers and distributors, and design consultants and investigated as much as we could of the 300,000 sq. ft of exhibit space and 500 exhibiting companies. Here are our top 5 takeaways.

  • 1. Food lockers are mainstream

    By incorporating cutting-edge technology not available in cubbies or shelves, food lockers are transforming the order fulfillment process. The trend, embraced by major equipment manufacturers, showcases lockers with temperature controls, advanced pickup information systems, and in-wall installations facilitating interior product fulfillment and exterior customer pickup.
  • 2. Mobile order technology is everything

    Mobile order technology was on full display at NAFEM, and it makes sense – mobile ordering allows operators to offer a more convenient and personalized customer experience, improve operational efficiencies and reduce bottlenecks, expand their reach to new customers, and drive sales. From fully functional booths allowing attendees to order through an app to notifications via text message, order status screens, and contactless pickups from food lockers, mobile order tech proved indispensable for enhancing operational efficiencies and expanding customer reach.
  • 3. AI software is alive and actually helpful

    AI technology is becoming increasingly unavoidable in the food industry, aiding in inventory management and personalized menu recommendations. At NAFEM, we witnessed a company employ machine learning software using product images to optimize production line stocking. Here’s how it works – overhead cameras monitor product levels, AI software anticipates upcoming needs based on historical transaction data, and a display screen cues employees when items are needed and how much to stock before products run out. This software could even be used beyond the food service industry and in other retail environments. The point is, as a customer, you’ll never again need to hunt down an employee about an out-of-stock item and waste time waiting for them to see if they have more product in the back.
  • 4. Robots. Robots. Robots.

    The possibilities for automation in the food service industry are endless so it was no surprise to us that robots were a shining star at many display booths. This year’s cohort of new robots included automated kitchen equipment like a robotic fry arm, a pizza vending machine, and robot wait staff to assist with transporting things like food and dirty dishes. Considering their limitless number of capabilities, robots could be especially helpful in alleviating pain points for the many restaurants that are facing staffing shortages and employee retention issues.
  • 5. Flexible Solutions

    Lastly, flexibility emerged as a prominent theme at The NAFEM Show.We saw electric vehicles with modular equipment for flexible food and/or beverage offerings and ventless solutions to facilitate flexibility without typical hood and ductwork requirements. These innovative solutions allow food service operators to adapt to changing customer needs and space constraints, important factors in the constantly evolving food service environment.

All said and told, our NAFEM experience unveiled an exciting landscape of innovations and technologies shaping the future of food service. We eagerly anticipate returning in future years to witness further advancements and explore how brands and restaurants continue to elevate the customer experience. Curious about integrating these new technologies into your organization? We have experts who can help! Reach out at TalkWithUs@wdpartners.com to discuss how to improve your food service operations.

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