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CEO DATELINE – National Restaurant Association ends oversight of trade show

Oct. 2, 2018
By Walt Williams

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The National Restaurant Association has turned over the reins of its nearly century-old trade show to the industry publishing and events company Winsight, which will oversee the show’s operations moving forward.

NRA announced Monday the group had entered into an “equity partnership” with Winsight to run and manage the NRA Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show, more commonly known as the NRA Show. The association said it hasn’t sold the show but under the terms of the 45-year sponsorship agreement, Winsight will assume operational ownership of the event while NRA will have an advisory seat on the company’s board of directors.

“This collaboration will allow us to grow the impact and reach of our Show, while also elevating the level of service we provide to our members, including enhanced member benefits, advocacy, training and certification, and content,” NRA CEO Dawn Sweeney said in a statement announcing the deal.

The NRA Show launched in 1919, the same year the association was founded. The event is currently held at Chicago’s McCormick Place. This year’s show, held in May, attracted more than 65,000 registrants and covered 715,000 square feet in floor space, according to the association. Next year’s show is scheduled for May 2019 and will mark the 100th anniversary of the event.

 Winsight is best known as a publisher of media for the restaurant, convenience and hotel industries, but the company also runs several industry events, such as the Global Restaurant Leadership Conference and Outlook Leadership Conference.

NRA staff will move to Winsight as part of the agreement. Mary Pat Heftman, who is currently executive vice president of convention and strategic alliances at NRA, will become president of the restaurant show group at the company. The association’s current convention team will also join Winsight.

“We welcome Mary Pat and her team to Winsight, and we are confident our resources, combined with those of the National Restaurant Association, have created a partnership dedicated to the success of the restaurant and foodservice industries of today and tomorrow,” Winsight CEO Mike Wood said.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.