This article was edited on 9-1-2014. A slide show was added!
The Sysco Food Show!
Sysco is one of the largest food purveyors and distributers in America. Sysco does 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 food destination in the world, so the Las Vegas Sysco Food Show at Cashman Center was a major culinary event!
Because the Sysco marketing and demo staff usually have no Las Vegas 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 for events. I signed on with the catering company as a certified food handler. Several other students did the same and we all made a little bit of extra cash.
At a food show like the Sysco event, all that is required of food handlers is some very basic cooking and food safety knowledge. A clean presentable uniform, a smiling face and the ability to "meet and greet" is all that is needed.
Helping the Sysco product marketers to get potential customers interested in the new food items was easy for me to do, because Sysco had some nice new products. I have been working in the restaurant industry for a long time and I have knack for getting people interested in food. While cooking the demo food, using honest descriptive phrases that describe the quality of the product seemed to work best. When an interested customer started inquiring asking about serious matters concerning prices, sales potential or availability, I directed the customer to the Sysco representative that I was working with. Working as a demo food preparer at a Sysco convention is a fun "piece of cake job!"
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.
There was an Angus Beef display area at the far end of the convention hall that I would have liked to have seen while at the Sysco Food Show. The delicatessen meat section was nearby. Those are two items that are fun to taste and sample.
Sampling is the key to a good food show. Every item at the Sysco food show was free to taste. "See food, eat food" is an old expression. "Let them get interested in new food products and let them buy food" is a better food convention expression!
It is impossible to sample every food item at a grand scale food product convention. Most shop by sight alone. When they see a food item that presents quality or a pre-prepared food product that could potentially create customer interest, then the sampling begins. The people that tasted the food products were impressed. Many purchased the food products for their businesses on the spot and delivery was arranged. Since modern communications technology was used to log every sale, the entire process only took a few minutes and the food products actually could be delivered the same day or whatever date the customer chose.
I must admit that many of the potential customers grazed the food at the Sysco Food Show just like the event was an endless buffet! That is okay, because later, those same customers remember the items that they liked and they inquire about those items through their own establishment's Sysco sales reps. Sysco sales reps that cover a region or route are very easy to work with. Busy chefs often lag behind, when trying to keep up with the latest food purveyor products.
The regional Sysco sales reps often present new food items that can effectively create solutions, especially when efficiency is the operational goal. For example, a restaurant that only has access to an unskilled workforce or a restaurant that a high customer flow ratio and the kitchen facility is too small, are candidates for purchasing pre-prepared food products that require no prep work or raw food inventory. When kitchen space or food quality control is a factor, the pre-preared food items that Sysco offers are a viable solution.
A food show is an enterprising venture, both for the marketers and potential customers. Food shows are fun to attend and attendance is usually by invitation or registration. Because the group of us students were hired to safely handle the food, we got to attend the Sysco Food Show for free. We actually got paid to attend this fun event!
As a chef, manager or restaurateur, attending food show conventions is a necessity. Shaking hands and promoting business is part of the deal, while 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 a restaurant's customers happy and it good way to stay ahead of the competition.
If presented with the opportunity to attend a regional Sysco Food Show, then by all means do so. 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. Yum!