by Lacey Griebeler, Chef Magazine

This article is the Party Planner online exclusive for the June 2009 issue of
Chef Magazine.

By now, you've recovered from walking the tradeshow floor at the 2009 National Restaurant Association (NRA) Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show in Chicago, May 16 to 19. But if your desk looks anything like mine, you're probably still wading through all the handouts and notes you gathered. Luckily, there have been roundups (including one by Chef's editors) on this year's food and beverage trends. While it might not be as exciting (or controversial) as the latest in F&B, let's not forget all those displayed products that just might help augment your bottom line. After all, that's a major reason for attending the NRA Show in the first place.

One of those product topics is tools for your in-house special events and banquets, which are definitely excellent means of increasing your weekly business. While plenty of the items in your restaurant can serve double duty for your catered parties, there are many other great products from the NRA Show that can take your events to the next level--without a huge investment.

Here is closer look at some tabletop and banquet products that could help you improve the look and feel of your in-house catered events coming up in the second half of the year. And be sure to tell us about the unique party wares you spotted at the NRA Show in the comments section at the end of the post.

Front of the House showcased space-conscious buffet displays for every serving need--from easy-storing L-shaped glass Arctic risers (perfect for a 20" round Arctic collection plate) to stackable brushed-metal cylindrical risers to riser-trivets (pictured) that can be folded flat for easy storage. Visit

While consumers wanted bright colors at their special events last year, this year's trend is more "refined luxury" in neutral tones, according to Garnier-Thiebaut. The company's new Luxury Table Linens Collection delivers just that: 100 percent cotton linens with romantic, earthy tones as well as fine-finishing details and mitered corners. Visit

Speaking of getting back to earth tones, Art de Cuisine by Churchill now offers its Igneous Stoneware collection. The new rustic dishes are safe for the microwave, oven, freezer and dishwasher. Extend the natural look with Art de Cuisine's Acacia wooden trays (pictured on the left). Visit

Kenilworth will officially launch B.Concept serving platters next month, but the company previewed the new collection at the NRA Show. Designed to be adaptable to any buffet setting, the 17-piece set can be arranged in a variety of shapes. The platters are microwave-, salamander- and dishwasher-safe. Visit

Gourmet Display's three-tiered stand for its Prestige Porcelain collection can be outfitted with a wide array of E.Z Clip interchangeable side accessories, including (clockwise, from top left) ID tag holder, porcelain signage, Lily three-bowl (7 ounces each) attachment and Canon 24-ounce bowl attachment. Visit

Looking for a whimsical (but stable) way to serve an amuse-bouche? Seltmann USA triangular-base, five-pronged Prop Forks will make sure those bites stay put until your customers are ready for them. Visit

Make a dramatic statement on your buffet displays with Steelite's Canyon chafer from the Brand Design Source collection. Fabricated from high-quality aluminum and finished with a powder coating, this rectangular chafer (28 by 20 by 10 inches) will hold a standard hotel pan and is easy to clean. Round size also available. Visit

Sico offers a solution for restaurants that need more table space during a catered event but need to be able to easily store the table when the party is over. The new two-tier collapsible catering table has strength, stability and mobility. In two easy steps, the top tier folds down, and the whole table folds vertically. Visit