TRA Marketplace inspires with technology, trends and solutions in San Antonio

Jul 31

2nd Largest foodservice show in the US rotates to Houston in 2019
The 81st Annual Texas Restaurant Association (TRA) Marketplace held July 15-16 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center brought together more than 500 exhibitors and 6,600 foodservice industry attendees, ranging from restaurant owners and managers to chefs, educators, marketers and media. Typically held between Houston and Dallas, the show broke with tradition this year, returning to San Antonio for the first time in more than 30 years, in time for San Antonio’s 300-year anniversary.    
Well-known as the largest and most comprehensive event for the foodservice industry in the Southwest, this year’s show pulled out all stops with hundreds of exhibitors from across the country, showcasing new products and innovations, equipment, and cutting-edge technology. Unique specialty pavilions dotted the show floor including a Craft Beverage Garden, Culinary Innovation Station, GO TEXAN area and a New Product Showcase.  New this year, was a Startup Showcase which included technology-based restaurant solutions from the startup world, along with a high-energy, pitch-session event.

“It was special to be back in San Antonio this year for TRA Marketplace,” says Richie Jackson, CEO of the Texas Restaurant Association. “The foodservice industry here is clearly booming, and San Antonio is a nationally-recognized culinary destination. As the city celebrates its Tricentennial, it was the perfect time to unite the restaurant community. We saw a tremendous turnout this year with some of the best and brightest talent all under one roof.”
A dynamic roster of powerhouse speakers generated several standing-room-only crowds, offering practical insights and valuable advice from three different stages. The Big Bend Big Ideas Stage, presented by Texas Mutual, featured industry leaders, the Silicon Hills Technology Stage, presented by Coca-Cola, showcased 30-minute interactive sessions on operational issues, and the Panhandle Culinary Theater, with its full kitchen setup provided inspiration from some of Texas' most celebrated restaurateurs and chefs.
Conference highlights included:

  • Keynote Conversation: Johnny Hernandez and Hugo Ortega – Award-winning, legendary chefs Johnny Hernandez of San Antonio and Hugo Ortega of Houston, gathered for a fascinating, in-depth conversation on food, family, culture and the Texas restaurant industry.
  • Keynote Interview: GJ Hart and David Cantu – The newly appointed CEO of Torchy’s Tacos, GJ Hart, was interviewed by David Cantu, Chief Customer Officer for HotSchedules.
  • Foodservice Industry InsightsCarlos Herrera, chief economist for Coca-Cola’s North America Foodservice and On-Premise Division shared insights on the impact of the economy on consumers and the restaurant industry.
  • Solve Your Biggest Problem: Recruit & Retain – An exclusive group of seasoned HR veterans from top brands and technology solution providers talked through what it takes to drive employee loyalty, create reward systems that work, and how culture can be used to solve problems.  
  • Food + The Future: The Virtualization of Hospitality – Darden / The Capital Grille and Shula’s Steakhouses shared a glimpse into new opportunities that exist in the restaurant space.
  • At the Head of the Table: Women in Foodservice Leadership - Some of the industry's most powerful female leaders united to discuss the current and future state of the service industry, gender dynamics in the food service ecosystem, and practical strategies to implement in everyday work life.
  • What Makes Me Stay: Restaurant Employees Speak Up – A panel of long-term service industry employees dished on culture, communication, tools, and what makes them stay in the industry.

As a special treat, culinary students from the Texas ProStart Culinary Team from Rockwall High School, who placed second in the National ProStart Invitational this year, and San Antonio High School showed off their culinary skills with a live demonstration.  
In the TRA PAC Lounge, an enthusiastic crowd greeted Houston attorney and national immigration expert Jacob Monty of Monty & Ramirez, LLP, who gave an overview of the changing immigration landscape and fielded questions. PAC members were also greeted with a presentation by Retired General Bentley Nettles, executive director of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
There were also fun, high-energy networking events outside the show floor. On Saturday, July 14, TRA’s annual Night of Excellence awards dinner was held in the Hemisfair Ballroom of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, and the following evening, the Lone Star Bash took place at Sunset Station. Benefiting the Texas Restaurant Association’s Education Foundation (TRAEF), Lone Star Bash pulled in a crowd of 750 people, and featured guest Chef John Tesar of Dallas-based Knife restaurant, a four-time James Beard “Best Southwest Chef” semifinalist and “Top Chef” contestant.
Next year, TRA Marketplace heads back to Houston, on Sunday, July 14 and Monday, July 15, at the George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenida De Las Americas, Houston, TX 77010. For more information and updates, visit