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Private Organizer Acquires National Restaurant Association Show

Hil Anderson
, Senior Editor
October 5, 2018
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CHICAGO – The landmark National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show was acquired by Winsight LLC, a private event organizer and high-profile B2B publisher in the food and restaurant industry.

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) staff that has been running the show since its launch nearly 100 years ago, will join Winsight, including Mary Pat Heftman, Executive Vice President, Convention & Strategic Alliances. As part of the deal, Heftman was named President of Winsight’s Restaurant Group.

“Winsight’s focus has always been to aggregate the best brands in the food and beverage industry across the restaurant, convenience retailing, and grocery sectors,” Winsight CEO Mike Wood told Trade Show Executive (TSE). “The show is the premier gathering place for the food service industry, which will strengthen our ability to connect, educate, and inspire buyers and sellers.”

The sale is expected to close by the end of the year. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The Restaurant Show has been a mainstay of Chicago’s trade show calendar for nearly 100 years. Its 2016 show at McCormick Place featured 683,511 net square feet (nsf) of exhibit space, landing it at No. 17 on the 2017 Trade Show Executive Gold 100. This year’s show grew to 715,108 nsf and drew 2,486 exhibitors and more than 65,000 attendees.

Winsight and the NRA have had a professional relationship revolving around the Restaurant Show for several years. Winsight produces the event’s show daily, and Wood said NRA executives were frequent speakers at Winsight’s executive-level restaurant conferences in Phoenix, Los Angeles and Dubai. “We both want to serve the industry by connecting, educating and inspiring its participants,” he said. “Our likeminded approach eventually led to discussions about a strategic partnership.”

The NRA said in a statement that the sale of the show was part of a larger agreement between the association and Chicago-based Winsight. The agreement includes keeping the show name with the NRA acting as a sponsor for 45 years and having an advisory seat on Winsight’s board of directors. Winsight’s publication, Restaurant Business, will become the official magazine of the NRA. Heftman said, “This strategic partnership accelerates our efforts to bring show attendees and exhibitors better and deeper programing, and also expedites the digital transformation taking place throughout the industry.”

Along with publishing Restaurant Business, Winsight, which is owned by Pamlico Capital of Charlotte, N.C., provides lead generation and brand marketing services. It also provides data analyses on the food and retail sectors through its Technomic Inc. subsidiary. Wood said he expected the information generated by Techmonic would be a solid resource for Heftman and her team.

“The show is already best in class, but we think we can enhance the experience by improving the event’s use of technology as well as the content,” said Wood. “With Technomic’s insights and our editorial market knowledge, we can help attract more qualified attendees, many of whom already attend our conferences.”

While Winsight has no other trade shows in its portfolio, its executive ranks include some industry veterans. Galen Poss, COO of dmg::events, recently joined Winsight’s board of directors as Vice Chairman, while former UBM and Penton executive Chris Keating serves as Group President, Restaurant Media & Events. And Wood spent seven years in corporate development at Hanley Wood.

Moreover, Wood told TSE that the acquisition was strategic, and the NRA show management would not be folded into Winsight’s current conference staff. “We consider the tradeshow business very different from our conference business and therefore do not intend to integrate the show staff with any departments at Winsight,” he said. “There are likely opportunities for the two groups to work together and share best practices and expand our buying power, but as far as day-to-day tasks, we expect the groups to operate independently.”

Reach Mike Wood at (312) 876-0004 or mwood@winsightmedia.com; Mary Pat Heftman at (312) 853-2525 or mheftman@restaurant.org; NRA CEO Dawn Sweeney at (202) 331-5900 or dsweeney@restaurant.org

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