National Restaurant Association

Culinary Trailblazers: 5 Businesses Revolutionizing the Way You Eat

Think the way we eat is exempt from the high-tech world’s rapid pace of development? Think again. From May 17-20, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) will bring thousands of food-related business together for NRA Show 2014. By its own estimate, this Chicago convention will bring together over 2,000 exhibitors and over 44,000 attendees. Many of the hottest and most interesting startups around will take this opportunity to demonstrate their products and technologies, showing how they can revolutionize both what and how we eat.

Swiftic will be there, showing how restaurants and food-related businesses can use mobile apps to better reach customers. But we won’t just be there to teach—this is also a golden opportunity for us to learn from others who are bringing tremendous innovation to the world of food. So, please, stop by our booth and say hello—we’d love to meet you!Here are five other awesome companies who will be at NRA Show 2014. If you’re going to be there in person, check them out—and if not, take a look at their websites and see what they’re all about.

YEXT

Founded: 2006
Location: New York, NY
Founders: Howard Lerman, Brian Distelburger, and Brent Metz
Concept: Yext is a tech company that helps businesses update location-related information on multiple websites from one place. The company’s mission is to “get perfect location information into every hand,” and over 250,000 businesses—including many restaurants, bars, and cafes—now rely on Yext to manage their local listings. No wonder it was ranked #20 on Forbes’ 2014 list of America’s Most Promising Companies.
Funding: $65.8 million from investors including Sutter Hill Ventures, Institutional Venture Partners, and WGI Investments.

DINE THE NATION

Founded: 2013
Location: Montgomery, OH
Founder: William Maltbie
Concept: Dine the Nation sees itself as a Match.com for diners and “like moneyball” for restaurants. The company leverages technology and digital media to collect data on local diners and then provides its data to the restaurants in its network. Restaurants, in turn, can use the data to target specific demographics and attract more customers. Dine the Nation’s restaurant dashboard even allows restaurants to send messages directly to potential diners in specific demographics.
Funding: Private funds and support through Rockethub.com.

ENJOY LIFE FOODS

Founded: 2001
Location: Schiller Park, IL
Founder: Scott Mandell
Concept: Enjoy Life Foods produces foods that are not only gluten-free but also free of the eight most common allergens: wheat, dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, fish, and shellfish. The company’s goal is to allow everyone to eat freely without worrying about the bad side effects that often come along with our favorite foods. Founder Scott Mandell first dreamed up Enjoy Life as part of a class assignment for the MBA program at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
Funding: Mandell started the company with money from friends, family, and “angel donors.”

VIRTUAL NEXT

Founded: 2011
Location: Toronto, ON, Canada
Founder: Bijan Shahrokhi
Concept: Virtual Next makes it easy for any restaurant to run its own tech-centered loyalty program. The company’s simple-to-use loyalty cards reduce transaction time, track customer data, and enable merchants to offer tailor-made loyalty programs. All the customer needs is a virtual card that’s linked to the iPhone Passbook or Google Wallet. If a merchant allows it, customers can even use the cards to make payments.
Funding: $200,000 in grants

BUDDY FRUITS

Founded: 2006
Location: Coral Gables, FL
Founders: Fabian Milon, Stephanie Milon, and Jerome Lesur
Concept: Buddy Fruits offers 100% fruit snacks that are both convenient and healthy. Started in 2006 after the (French) Milon family was having a hard time finding healthy snacks for their kids during a visit to the U.S., Buddy Fruits snacks target consumers of all ages. Its new line, FruitBreak, aims to revolutionize healthy snacking.
Funding: The product has been sold in France for 10 years. The trio invested $600,000 to become the U.S. distributors.

With businesses like these—and many more—NRA Show 2014 promises to offer a fascinating look at the inventions, trends, and businesses that will shape the way we eat in the future. We hope to see you there!