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CHICAGO -- Despite the high cost of doing business here, the National Restaurant Association signed a new deal to keep its annual convention in Chicago through 2011, after considering a move to alternate cities, including Las Vegas or Orlando., the association said.
The Washington, D.C.-based trade association, which has held its annual gathering in Chicago for the past 56 years, on Friday announced a new deal with the city, which has earned an unfavorable reputation among some convention planners and show-goers for its stiff union rules, high hotel costs, and expensive marketing services for exhibitors.
The restaurant association, which signed a five-year agreement with the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority and the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau, said key aspects of its new agreement were McCormick Place's commitment to improve service, Chicago hotels agreeing to increase the number of rooms made available, and new flexibility in work rules in a recent labor agreement between McCormick Place contractors and the riggers union.
Such issues already have cost the city some big convention business, including the Food Marketing Institute and the National Association of Realtors.
In announcing the news at a press conference Friday, Steven Anderson, NRA's president and c.e.o. said: "The restaurant business is all about warm hospitality, extraordinary service and great taste. It is important to the National Restaurant Association that we hold our innovative trade show in a city that possesses those characteristics as well. The key aspects of the agreement we have signed include many important provisions that will continue to grow our trade show -- already the Western Hemisphere's largest foodservice and hospitality event.
Anderson said measurement methods, structured focus groups and surveys will help McCormick Place determine where and to what degree changes need to be made to continue to provide a world-class trade show. "McCormick Place has committed to meet improved and enhanced service targets. There will be measurement thresholds that ensure that McCormick Place will exceed the expectations at our Show exhibitors and attendees for the length of the agreement," said Anderson.
The 2006 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show attracted more than 73,000 attendees and exhibitors from all 50 states and 110 countries, and generated more than $106 million in direct expenditures for Chicago.