Top Trends: Mine, and NRA’s…

All the tech people were crammed cheek by jowl into their “pavilion” back by the restrooms, where they’re starved for someone to talk to but everyone is always walking urgently the first time they pass by.

As noted in my very inelegant and crudely executed post yesterday, I spent the day at the National Restaurant Association trade show, which I always have to explain to friends has nothing to do with guns.

Here’s a working link to the Top Trends for the National Restaurant Association show, according to the National Restaurant Association.

I suppose those are all legit; I feel like little individual desserts and Asian flavors are already pretty trendy, so they didn’t hit me as news. I’m not sure how you can generalize a beast so big. But here are some generalizations:

1. Technology Is Still In The Backseat, at least symbolically. Maybe everybody is waiting to see who’s going to be the Facebook to everybody else’s MySpace. But I met some interesting people back there by the restrooms.

2. You can sure tell who the Big Guns are, and who the little spunky guys are, and who the plodding, dutiful, trade-show-workin’ road warriors are. As you cruise the aisles, you get a definite sense that the players in charge intend to remain in charge. For example, in my opinion, the new Coke dispenser is fun, yes, but not all that fun. It’s still just a cup of pop when you’re done. But they did an excellent job making me feel like I was all excited. It’s the power of power. It was sort of interesting to contrast the big fuss everybody was making—long lines, a “live ongoing interview” of people who sampled the pop—with the lack of fuss surrounding a competing beverage dispenser a couple of aisles over. Everyone there looked weary.

3. As much as everyone wants a magical pill they can swallow to do social media, there’s not really any magic. Everyone I spoke to about social media admitted it’s time consuming and difficult to measure, and not that popular among certain factions within their company until the day arrives when ROI can be measured. I commiserated about the demands that social media is placing on already-stressed-out marketing and IT departments with an older salesguy at the NCR booth, who made the “rubbing money between his thumb and forefingers” motion and said, “Yeah, but these guys worship the dollar, and with margins so low on everything they’ll figure something out.”

4. There’s always something going on with ice cream and yogurt.Every time I’ve gone, there’s been all kinds of stuff going on with soft serve machines. And now, this year, there was the prototype of a machine that custom blends hard serve. There were fancy liqueur-infused slushies. And all those flavors, everywhere

. Sample, sample, sample. Second most prominent sampling, of course, is cheese. I did love the Ostenbørg Horseradish Havarti, and some incredible chunks I furtively chipped off a wheel of crumbly Bleu de Gex or something. Some things you can count on.

5. Almost everybody welcomes a blogger. It was cool. I got enthusiasm from everybody except a guy who was displaying menu holders and check delivery systems, who curtly told me he wouldn’t be interested in discussing my blog and then rather aggressively told me to stop taking pictures with my iPhone.