During the 2007 National Restaurant Association Restaurant Hotel-Motel Show May 19-22, I floated the showroom floor with my Nikon D200 and red Mead notepad, searching for interesting sources to meet my two-story-a-day quota. I ran into a lot of people and took more than 250 photos.
Here are just a few interesting anecdotes I found during my McCormick Center journeys.
All throughout the showroom floor, men and women went from booth to booth appearing to be talking to themselves. They weren’t crazy. They were users of wireless earpieces like Bluetooth.
At one point, I was pounding the Technology Pavilion walkways and saw a dozen people grouped together and walking toward me. Their earpieces seemed to be flashing like a Christmas tree in unison. For a brief moment, I could have sworn they were the Borg Collective characters in Star Trek preparing to assimilate me.
Luckily, they turned out to be show attendees and had no intentions of injecting me with nanoprobes. But I was amazed how loud some people spoke into their devices and how much they revealed, as if earpiece conversations were muted to the rest of us. I overheard people bashing competitors, chewing out their teenaged daughters, negotiating deals, and talking about how much they can’t stand a certain person. Did they think nobody would eavesdrop? I mean, there were 73,000 people walking the floor. Somebody a lot more important than me had to hear a point-of-sale salesman call a quick-service brands’ technology director an “idiot.”
The lesson here is you never know when somebody could overhear you, so don’t say too much.
The Out of Towner
Eduardo Salume—the owner of El Salvador’s largest quick-service hamburger chain—Biggest. When I stumbled upon Salume, I was searching for international sources.
I overheard him speaking Spanish to a vendor. I tapped Salume on his broad shoulders and requested an interview. “No problem,” he says in perfect English diction, “but you’ll have to excuse my English.”
“Are you kidding,” I say, “you speak better than most Americans.”
During the interview, he tells me all about Biggest and how the burgers are so big you can’t finish your fries or slurp your Pepsi if you eat the whole thing; his challenges with labor; the fear of McDonald’s invading his area; and that he really loves this giant neon burger at a digital menuboard booth.
“It looks just like one of my burgers,” he says with a smile from ear to ear. I took Salume to this hamburger sign booth and snapped a few pictures while the nearby sales reps kept telling onlookers, “that’s Eduardo, and he owns the largest hamburger chain in El Salvador.” A crowd gawked at Salume as if he were Kiefer Southerland.