The National Restaurant Association has decided to move its Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show dates to May 5-8, 2012, thus avoiding a scheduling conflict with the Global G8 and NATO summit taking place two weeks later.
The two high-profile international meetings are expected to attract more than 10,000 visitors, while the NRA Show will draw some 66,000 attendees. Though Chicago has approximately 35,000 rooms in the central business district, the restaurant convention alone demands about 45,000 room nights over its four days.
During discussions with the association, city officials expressed confidence that all of the events could have been held simultaneously. "We have ample hotel rooms and infrastructure," said Tom Alexander, assistant press secretary for Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office. "We would have been prepared to handle it."
However, concerns arose over issues such as ground transportation, restaurant availability and hotel space. "We worried about two things: whether we would be able to get our clients around town considering all of the road closures and security clearances, and whether we would have had enough buses to go around," said Brian Whitaker, vice president of Chicagoland Transportation Solutions Inc.
Crain's Chicago Business had reported that the city offered the NRA new dates for its show, and there were also rumors that the NRA had begun to reserve blocks of rooms in Las Vegas as a backup.
While changing locations might have been a viable alternative for the NRA Show, its departure was the last thing some local industry experts wanted to see, as the group has held its annual event in Chicago for the past 61 years and, in September, signed a five-year agreement to gather there through 2016.
While changing locations might be a viable alternative for the NRA Show, its departure is the last thing some local industry experts want to see, as the group has held its annual event in Chicago for the past 61 years and, in September, signed a five-year agreement to gather there through 2016.
If the National Restaurant Association does decide to stay put, communication and planning will be key, says Whitaker: "For both events to coincide smoothly, we really need to get everybody on the same page."