Turning the Restaurant Business Inside Out at the Southwest Foodservice Expo

The Southwest Foodservice Expo, in the Dallas Convention Center last week, was a sprawling, fascinating deconstruction of the business, as if some omnipotent conventioneer had taken apart a restaurant piece by piece, and laid it all out, labeled, under a grid of fluorescent lights.

Strolling around the convention floor, you could sample wines and cheeses (separately), get a massage, sit on a toilet on a pedestal or (in the booth next door) try a muffin. There were immigration and pest control consultants, stress-reduction experts and political action meetings. Pizza-making, burger creation and espresso artistry champions were crowned, and the Borden dairy cows were the life of the party, even if they barely stood up in their display pens.

This was the 72nd running of the event, put on each year by the Texas Restaurant Association, and it's serious business for chains, individual restaurants, culinary schools and suppliers. Naturally, we visited Tuesday afternoon with an eye more for the awkward, the insane and the profound.

If you're so inclined, follow along on a slideshow tour through the foodservice expo.

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