Expert Tips on Navigating Retail Food Options (RFO)


This blog post was written by Duane Davis, the RFO Manager at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre

Today’s trade and public show attendees have high expectations regarding food, and the retail food options (RFO) conversation has steered to a place unimaginable just five short years ago. Food in 2017 has become much more of an experience than an exercise in survival, and event attendees now consider themselves foodies thanks to the growing popularity of celebrity chefs, YouTube cooking tutorials and the constant parade of restaurant selfies on their Instagram feed. For this reason, a carefully planned RFO strategy can mean the difference between a great event and an outstanding one.

So how can planners perfect their RFO strategy?

Retail food concepts must now balance trendy with the familiar, while focusing on today’s expectation of getting fresh food fast. Just how trendy your RFO should be will depend on your attendees and knowing what they want becomes key.

Balancing Trendy and Familiar

The Grab and Go station is the granddaddy of retail food choices on the show floor. For example, coffee and pastries first thing in the morning are sacrosanct for all attendees. But this granddaddy has evolved to also include trendy favourites. Today, Grab and Go goes beyond pastries and coffee and also includes fresh grilled paninis, fruit, yogurt parfaits and vegetable cups. You can often find caesar, orzo and pulse salads alongside gooey oversized cinnamon buns.


Cafeteria-style food service has faded. Your savvy attendees want an experience, to see their meals prepared and ingredients tailored to taste. Great examples of this include sushi being rolled and prepared right on the show floor, sweet and savoury crepes masterfully created live in front your eyes, and smoothies blended with fresh and exotic fruits that appeal to the palate. All these choices are also fast, made fresh and convenient.

About the Stalwarts

Sometimes, hunger wants what it wants. The old dependable comfort foods, burgers, fries, pizza and hot dogs, will always have a place on the public or trade show floor.

As the retail food segment evolves, so too will the look and the concepts of our offerings. Mobility is key to our business, and technological advances in portable kitchens and food preparation promise exciting times ahead for what operators will be able to offer on the floor in the present and near future!

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