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HMRA Trade Expo returns for 41st year

(March 6, 2015) The Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association’s Spring Trade Expo is gearing up for its 41st year, with exhibits from 400 hospitality industry companies ready to fill the 40th Street convention center this Sunday and Monday.

The annual event will fill all three exhibit halls and bring resort area buyers and sellers together as they prepare for the upcoming season.

Only industry representatives are permitted to attend the show, which will feature culinary demonstrations, a bartender competition and craft beer discussions.

“It’s one-stop shopping for restaurant, bar and hotel employees,” said Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association Executive Director Susan Jones, who organizes of the event. “There may be 10 different companies who have the same product to touch, taste or feel. Also, the convenience of shopping under one roof makes it possible to do a lot of business in two days.”

One of the highlights of this year’s expo will be a presentation by the Travel Channel’s “Hotel Impossible” host Anthony Melchiorri, who will take the stage in the performing arts center at 9 a.m. on Monday, before the doors open for the trade show.

“I am elated to bring Mr. Melchiorri to our expo. His no-nonsense approach will challenge our attendees to evaluate their own businesses so they’ll be able to deliver guest experience to make customers return,” Jones said.

The popularity of craft beer will have a special focus at this year’s event. The Brewers Association of Maryland will lead a craft beer discussion starting at 2 p.m. on Sunday at the culinary demo stage in Dockside Hall. In addition, area brewers will talk on the local craft beer movement.

New to the show this year will be a bartender competition fashioned after the Food Network’s “Chopped.”

That event, sponsored by Ocean 98 Radio, Seacrets Spirits and Tropicale, will take place on the Red, White and Brew Stage in Dockside Hall Monday beginning at noon.

Contestants will pick a box that contains the same materials, including vodka, rum, cola, soda water and glasses, and then have to set up a bar, make a rum and coke, crack a beer, pour a perfect vodka shot and mix a custom martini, all against the clock.

 A winner will be selected after each round based on speed, being the closest to 1.5 ounces in the shot and the best tasting martini.

The Red, White, and Brew Stage also will where product demonstrations take place, including presentations by Tony Hiligoss, a chef, instructor and business owner.

He will demonstrate the turbo fire, vent-less pizza oven to cook artisan style pizza in two minutes starting at 3 p.m. on Sunday and will offer instruction on food and wine pairing.

Local restauranteur Matt Rankin, from OC Brewing Company, will continue with the theme by demonstrating craft beer and flatbread pairing at 2:30 p.m. on Monday.

As is always the case at the expo, suppliers will introduce new products to prospective buyers.

Among them will be AC Beverage Eastern Shore’s new “JoeTap,” a coffee-on-tap system that infuses nitrogen into the cold-brewed liquid. It works much the same way as a beer delivery system, which, as it happens, is AC’s primary business.

Cold-brewed coffee, as artisan coffee fans know, contains less acid and is smoother than coffee produced by more traditional methods. The nitrogen infused in it the coffee brings out more flavor and freshness.

On the spirits side of the aisle this year, Bar Controls of North America will introduce a new wireless liquor system from Wunderbar. Here’s how it works: a bartender pours a measured shot and the spout transmits the entire transaction to the office computer. The brand, portion, price, bar and time is all transmitted.

In addition, at least 55 other businesses will have new products and specials at the show for a complete list, go to www.oceancitytradeexpo.com/ocmd-trade-show-specials.

Also, always a part of the trade show are seminars and there is no lack of them this year, including those that explore how businesses can benefit from the solar industry, how to analyze online hotel habits and how to drive online bookings, beverage pairing programs and at least a half a dozen others go to www.oceancitytradeexpo.com/ocmd-trade-show-schedule for a full list of seminar times and topics.

The Spring Trade Expo started 40 years ago when Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association member Paul Wall, of Phillips Seafood Restaurants, thought an expo in Ocean City was needed. The closest comparable event was in Baltimore.

Since then, the show has become a major business and, to some degree, a social event for the hospitality industry.

This year’s edition will feature 300 companies at 400 exhibit booths.

Last year, about 5,000 people attended the Spring Trade Expo, with more than 5,642 people pre-registered on Tuesday. Some 6,000 attendees are expected this year, Jones said.

The expo runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday.

Registration costs $15 at the door and attendees must bring their business cards or pay stubs to prove they are part of the industry.

Workers from hotels, motels, restaurants, catering companies, concessions operations, bed & breakfasts, property management companies, campgrounds, coffee houses, bakeries, ice cream shops, nightclubs, breweries, liquor stores, convenience stores, cafeterias, nursing homes, schools and colleges or hospitals are welcome.

Visit www.oceancitytradeexpo.com for more information, including a floor plan and schedule of seminars and other events.

Questions can also be directed to the HMRA at 410-289-6733.

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