Sysco Food Show at Cashman Center ~ Las Vegas 2012
Sysco is one of the largest food purveyors in America. Sysco does annual food shows in nearly every major city from coast to coast. Las Vegas is the convention capitol of the world and this city is the number one dining destination in the world, so the 2012 Las Vegas Sysco Food Show at Cashman Center definitely had a lot of culinary eye candy!
I have been transferring old articles that were published at blogs that I am now closing. Many of my old articles are now archive material, so it is best to put a time stamp in the article title, so viewers realize the republished articles are not in reference to present tense. The reason why the old dated articles are being retained is because people still view the old material, especially if food was featured. Food items of the past that are forgotten are often rekindled as something new, so looking back on old food trends to find marketing ideas is what some chefs do.
The world of food changes quickly, so the old food topic articles do demonstrate trends of the past and there are viewers that browse the old material to see what kind of culinary ideas were successful and which failed to make the cut. On the other hand, there are people who simply like to look at old pictures of food, just to marvel over the favorite food items that are no longer en vogue. The Las Vegas Sysco Food Show certainly shows a lot of food service products that were popular in 2012, which are no longer served in restaurants in modern times. For example, modernized gourmet fried junk food was a trend in 2012 and now very few restaurants purchase these kinds of food service products because the modern health cuisine trend took over in the mean time.
Because the Sysco convention marketing staff have no Las Vegas government health cards for food handling, Sysco subcontracted the food handling positions to local companies. One of the companies was a catering service that employs chef school students just for convention events. I was in culinary arts college at that time, so I signed on with the catering company as a certified food handler to work in the Las Vegas Sysco Food Show. Several other students did the same and we all made a little bit of extra cash and we got to take the leftover demo food home, which for a college student is a real blessing!
Since I was the only culinary arts student at the Sysco Food Show that already had 20 years of restaurant work experience, the Sysco reps asked me to cook the new line of fried gourmet junk food for potential buyers to taste. Cooking fried food is easy for any beginner cook, but at that time Sysco really wanted to market their gourmet style fried food while the trend was hot, so they just wanted somebody that could cook with consistency, so I was the pick. Helping the Sysco product marketers to get potential customers interested in the new gourmet fried food items was easy for me to do, because Sysco had some nice new trendy bar snack products that had eye appeal. Basically, the new bar snack junk food sold itself and I found myself cooking enough fried food to feed a sea of potential buyers and visitors that simply wanted some finger food to snack on while walking around in the convention.
For those who do not know what food service cuisine is, it is basically fully prepared food that is fully assembled, fully cooked and all that needs to be done is to heat it and eat it. Food service food is institutional food, so this kind of cuisine is served at prisons, National Parks, major sporting events, big conventions, high volume buffets and busy restaurants that rely on cheap labor. Food service products reduce labor costs and it helps to keep the overall quality consistent, even if it is prepared by new green cooks that have not learned the trade.
On the downside, food service food makes use of low quality cheap ingredients and there are plenty of artificial chemicals in the mix. The quality of food service food is mediocre at best, but high volume restaurants are where mediocrity is expected, so there is a viable niche for sales. Even worse, when many restaurants in the same city rely on food service products, the food looks the same at each restaurant. Making mediocre high volume food look interesting is what Sysco does best and I will leave it at that.
The photos above only show a small portion of the food products that were on display ay the Sysco Food Show. Cashman Center is a very large convention facility that is easy to navigate, but I could not wander too far away from my demo cooking duties while on break. I chose to just take pictures of the food that was nearby in the convention hall, which was enough to show the style of high volume cuisine trends that year.
Sampling is the key to a successful food show event. Every item at the Sysco food show was free to taste. “See food, eat food” is an old restaurant expression that works well in a food convention. If the food looks interesting enough to sample and the customer smiles when tasting, the chances are that a sale will be made. Many restaurateurs purchased the sampled food products for their businesses on the spot and delivery was arranged. Since modern communications technology was used at the 2012 event, the entire purchasing process only took a few minutes and the new food products were scheduled for delivery within hours instead of days.
I must admit that many of the potential customers grazed on the food at the Sysco Food Show just like the event was an endless buffet! Oddly enough, the fried food was the most popular food that day, because deep fried cheesecake bites were a brand new item. This fried bar snack idea sounded great back then, but I can tell you that this trendy culinary idea failed miserably, because it ended up being an item that really only appealed as a dessert snack, especially for beer drinkers that prefer savory snack food.
As a chef, manager or restaurateur, attending food show convention of any kind is a necessity. Shaking hands and promoting the business is part of the routine when attending a food show like the Sysco Convention. Good publicity never hurts in the restaurant business! Seeking new food products is a great way to keep the restaurant customers happy and it good way to stay ahead of the competition, especially if the competition also relies on food service items.
If presented with the opportunity to attend a regional Sysco Food Show, then by all means do so! Sysco Food Shows are promoted by client invitation only, but outsiders can purchase tickets for a hefty price. For those who are in the hospitality industry, bringing a few promising restaurant employees along will certainly help to expand their knowledge. Food expo events are educational and there are always plenty of new items to check out. The Sysco Food Show Convention is the one to go to if you own a restaurant that has an unskilled labor force or if the restaurant does very high volume sales!