Santa Claus might have been a no-show, but event planners found more than a stocking full of ideas for the perfect company holiday party at the Daily Herald Business Ledger Hospitality Expo -- Northwest Chicago Thursday in Hoffman Estates.

More than 900 registered guests roamed the floor of the Stonegate Conference and Banquet Centre tasting samples from the 75 vendors representing the region's hospitality industry. Attendees sampled foods like grilled cheese and tomato soup shooters from Toasty Cheese in Schaumburg, talked with a knight from Medieval Times in Hoffman Estates and discussed holiday party plans with representatives of venues like the Chicago Oak Brook Hills Hilton hotel in Oak Brook.

The line was long in front of the Victoria Venues restaurant group of Rosemont, Niles and Mount Prospect, where chefs were grilling fresh samples of the group's popular steak Diane. While owner Patricia Ferraro enjoyed the potential business leads from people stopping by, she added the expo was a great opportunity to network with other vendors and establish potential partnerships.

"We're in the wedding business and hospitality, but it's nice to be among other people that are in the business," said Ferraro, who was exhibiting for the first time. "We're here for networking, to see what referrals we can give them, and partnering up, because that's what it's all about."

Jeff Helfand, executive producer of Game Show Gurus of Hoffman Estates and Schaumburg, has been a longtime exhibitor because he says it's an "awesome fit for us."

"We do game shows for corporate events and the people who are here are looking to plan a corporate event," he said. "It's great for networking, not only for the people coming here but also for the other exhibitors, as well."

Norma Peterson's photography business, TrickPic Productions of Aurora, was exhibiting for the first time, but she's had experience at previous expos shooting portrait photos for Weber Grill restaurants.

"What we've done is bring it up a step and bringing in our own product called the Morphable," a 3-D photo keepsake, Peterson said. "We can see each year that this expo gets bigger and bigger and more people get involved. It's a win-win all the way around."

The Northwest Chicago expo is the last of three regional expos held by the Daily Herald Business Ledger in 2017. Plans are under way for the 2018 expos and details will be posted on the Business Ledger website,, in early 2018.