How to succeed at NAMA 2023: Business and culinary advice from the experts

April 14, 2023
Having a successful strategy at the 2023 NAMA Show goes well beyond the convention floor. Eating at the right places is important too.

The advice in this column can be quite useful – whether you’re reading this prior to heading to Atlanta or you’re at the show itself – I’ve provided some valuable food for thought. And, speaking of food, I also asked a few Atlanta industry peeps for their best advice on what not to miss and where to eat in Atlanta. That second part, where to eat, was totally an act of selfishness.

Guaranteed success – check out the Vending & OCS Nation podcasts

One more important note: I am also sharing two bits of personal advice – in Automatic Merchandiser’s Vending & OCS Nation podcasts – that will guarantee operator success at the 2023 NAMA Show. I know this advice works, because for years, it worked for me. You can learn more by tuning in to the April podcast episodes at It is worth a listen.

For now, consider what some industry leaders suggest to help operators make the most of the 2023 NAMA Show, as well as dining suggestions from those in the Atlanta area (this article will make you hungry).

Arthur Siller, SVP of operations and business development at Evergreen Refreshments, Seattle area:

“I think it’s important to sit down ahead of time and look at a few things. Who is showing on the floor, what education sessions are happening and then which ones do you feel matter most to your company? I would bring people from different departments in your organization. You get those different perspectives, and it also makes it a lot easier and simpler in terms of dividing and conquering when it comes to education sessions at the show. My approach has always been deciding which team members make the most sense to attend specific sessions, but also allowing them to choose one or two they feel passionate about.”

C.J. Recher, vice president of marketing for Five Star Food Service, Chattanooga:

“Create some goals of what you want to accomplish at the show. For us, I look at the education session agenda and pick out as many as I can go to if I don’t already have set meetings. Pick up things that apply in areas that you want to learn more about. Take a look at the education agenda, pick some and make sure you attend those sessions. There’s lots of value in that. Then, check out the supplier trade show. See who’s going to be there displaying at the trade show and make sure to create a plan, who do I want to go see? Set meetings if you can.”

Linda Saldana, CEO of Seventh Wave Refreshments, Atlanta area:

“I always do three things when I go to NAMA.

“Number one, I always, always, always try to bring in a new piece of equipment, whether it's coffee or whether it's technology. I want to find something new.

Number two, I try to bring in one new food item, and it doesn't necessarily have to be a new item that I don't know about, even though I love that. A new snack with the current suppliers that we have is fine.  Bring something in from the show. Be intentional.

The third strategy, connect with someone that I didn't connect with before, whether it's a supplier or an operator. I've gained so much mentorship from people who have been in business for 30 to 40 years.”

Linda’s dining suggestion in Atlanta: “The Ponce City Market area has beautiful rooftops. They have delicious, amazing restaurants, and the views and the feel, that vibe of Ponce City Market – it's a younger destination. Anywhere between west Atlanta and Ponce City Market, if you put it on Yelp, Ponce City Market, you'll have a plethora of fun restaurants and activities to do.”

Paul Tullio, Atlanta region, coffee and pantry specialist at Five Star Food Service:

“The first thing operators should do is get the temperature of their customers and make sure that they can accommodate their requests when they're at the NAMA Show. There are so many different new items, but if you go in there knowing that your customer is looking for this specific type of dietary restriction or this specific size pack, you can be more targeted.”

Paul’s dining suggestions in Atlanta“There's a little place that I love called Mary Macs Tea Room – I would highly recommend it. Very authentic and amazing Southern cuisine, with many ways to eat it. You can get a family-style if you've got four or five people together; they can give you these big plates of fried chicken and grits and all kinds of delicious Southern options.”  

Evan Jarecki, co-founder of Gimme, Atlanta:

“I think it is beneficial for sure to be there and to be able to see the new technologies. It's the place you can bundle your educational experiences into one week but supplementing that in all of the in-between times – and I think that's where the serendipity happens. That's where you get a lot of what you can take back as actionable steps in your business, and usually, that happens from a conversation with a peer who's already taking those steps.”

Evan’s dining suggestions in Atlanta: “One of my favorite places, and I am thinking of this in relation to where the show is physically taking place as well, is Alma Cocina. It's a great spot. I love it. 

Another recommendation would be the Optimist, for incredible seafood, cold seafood. 

My choice for excellent local steakhouse: Kevin Rathbun."

Debbie McGaw, director of sales and OCS services at Five Star Food Service, Atlanta:

“To me, the trade shows are all about education and networking, so I would like to make sure we are all spread out. Everybody is getting a little piece of something, and we come back together and collaborate on what we've learned, who we've met, so to me, that's the number one step. Meet with your team, look over the lists, look over who's going to be there, and just have a game plan for who's going to tackle either vendors or breakout sessions.”

Debbie’s dining suggestions in Atlanta: “When somebody is new to Atlanta, I like to bring them to one of the more fusion-type restaurants, which we have so many of. I'm looking for the ones that are going to have the fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, pimento cheese, all that Southern food that we're used to, and give it a spin or a flare with other cultures.”

Her favorites: Empire State South, Rising Sun, Kimball House, and The Consulate.

Debbie has one more recommendation: “The Beautiful Restaurant, if you really want to experience Atlanta Southern style. It is cafeteria-style, but it is up there.”  


Bob Tullio is a content specialist, speaker, sales trainer, consultant and contributing editor of Automatic Merchandiser and He advises entrepreneurs on how to build a successful business from the ground up and specializes in helping suppliers connect with operators in the convenience services industry – coffee service, vending, micro markets and pantry service specifically. 

Tullio is the host of Automatic Merchandiser’s Vending & OCS Nation podcast – designed to make your business more profitable.

Also check out Tullio’s YouTube channel, b2b Perspective, which has developed a loyal following.


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