Restaurants are busy places where the management put in long days. The idea of taking the time away from the restaurant to go to a trade show can seem like a waste of time and money. Instead of being at the restaurant making money, you're spending it to attend. That's the wrong way to think about it. Consider the money to attend as an investment in your restaurant with the potential to increase your revenues in the future.
It's important to look at the show's schedule to plot out your visit. What is your goal for your attendance? Are you there to learn what's going on in the industry or to make purchases of systems or goods? Many of the breakout sessions will focus on important trends in different aspects of your business. You will be able to find out what's the latest on food, technology, marketing, etc.
Take notes at the sessions and decide on a couple of areas you need to focus on for this year and keep to those. Choosing too many can overwhelm and create to many tasks for you to take on. By limiting yourself to one or two, you can give them your full attention, make necessary changes over the next year, and see measurable differences those changes made. If you change a bunch of things at once, there is no way to tell which one is making a real difference to your business.
Visit the booths
Use the exhibit floor to fill in gaps between the sessions that are important to you. The seminar sessions are a one-time shot while the booths will always be there.
Study the floorplan in advance so you can focus on the businesses that will address your needs. Searching for a new reservation system? Mark all the vendors in that category so that you can target those and avoid getting sidetracked.
Have your questions ready. Your time is limited and the vendors can often be overwhelmed by visitors. If you have your key questions ready, you can get assistance quickly and get right to the point.
For personal attention it is a good idea to set appointments. This way you have the vendors undivided attention. Keep in mind you still may not be able to cover everything and so a follow-up call, email, or visit may be necessary. Bring plenty of business cards with you to leave with them as well.
In the end the one or two tips you learn during your trade show visit can end up improving your business and increasing profits. If handled strategically, your one time visit could be beneficial for years to come.