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National Restaurant Association Show Gets Underway At McCormick Place

Mechanically animated characters from Characters Unlimited at the National Restaurant Association at McCormick Place. (Steve Miller)

Mechanically animated characters from Characters Unlimited at the National Restaurant Association at McCormick Place. (Steve Miller)

miller250 Steve Miller
Steve Miller is an investigative reporter and has been with Newsradio...
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CHICAGO (CBS) — More than 60,000 people are in Chicago for the 65th National Restaurant Association show at McCormick Place.

WBBM: All right, so what are we looking at here?

“Dead fruit flies,” says Brian Rascona of Fruit Fly Bar Pro, based in New York. We’re are peering into a container about as big as a 10-gallon aquarium.

No water in it, of course. But there are a lot of fruit flies.

“We’re releasing fruit flies gradually. We let them go and they die. There’s a few stragglers flying around there now.”

As the fruit flies die, the restaurant owners gather round. Apparently fruit flies are a big issue.

National Restaurant Association Show Gets Underway At McCormick Place

nra 2 National Restaurant Association Show Gets Underway At McCormick Place
WBBM 780/105.9FM

Rascona says the Fruit Fly Bar Pro is like the old No-Pest Strip. Except it’s approved by the EPA.

“Insects don’t have noses. So they breathe through their body. The vapor attacks their central nervous system and they wind up dying.

“That’s why you’ll see them kind of breakdancing on the floor of the containment unit. They’re actually twitching because their nervous system is getting attacked.”

Talking animal heads from Characters Unlimited. (Credit: Steve Miller)

Talking animal heads from Characters Unlimited. (Credit: Steve Miller)

Grant Grieves of Characters Unlimited in Nevada says he helps people put their restaurants and bars on the map with talking characters like Gabby, a life-size character who looks like your grandfather if your grandfather lived way up in the mountains and had a long beard.

“Be it a cowboy steakhouse with our characters. Or another place might need a talking buffalo.”

Or a talking chicken. Or a talking tree.

A delegation from the University of Montana food services visited Grant Grieves’ booth while we were there.

“Something like this out at the main entrance would be a real draw.”

“Let me tell you. Don’t ask for an extra helping of baked beans,” says Gabby.

Light-a-Bite makes backlit menus for easier reading in the dark. (Credit: Steve Miller)

Light-a-Bite makes backlit menus for easier reading in the dark. (Credit: Steve Miller)

Frank Floyd of Cleveland is the entrepreneur behind Light-a-Bite. He says it all started five years ago when he, his wife and his son went into a restaurant.

“And my wife is complaining that she can’t read the menu. So our son, who at that time was 15, said, ‘Dad, why don’t we invent a backlit menu?’ I said, OK, let’s go.”

And they did. Basically, the menu slips in front of the lighted screen.

The backlight is like an iPad, but Floyd thinks people like a menu to be a menu – and don’t want to scroll.

The NRA show runs through Tuesday afternoon.