Some notable companies and a few newer ones are among the 25 recipients of the National Restaurant Association’s 2019 Kitchen Innovations Awards, honoring progressive equipment that increases efficiencies and productivity.
The 15th annual program, recognizing innovative new equipment that delivers advancements in speed, efficiency, safety, will showcase the honored products in the interactive Kitchen Innovations Showroom at the NRA Show, May 18-21 in Chicago at McCormick Place.
“Forward-thinking and cutting-edge, this is the equipment that generates industry growth through a focus on factors such as automation, efficiency, safety improvements, sustainability, waste solutions, and more,” says Scott Redler, COO and co-founder of Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers and co-chair for the 2019 National Restaurant Association Show. “We are honored to showcase their dedication to the industry.”
Attendees to the 100th annual NRA Show will see emerging back-of-house trends in one place dedicated area.
The 2019 KI Award recipients were selected by an independent panel of judges:
- Dan Bendall (Principal, FoodStrategy, Inc.)
- David Chislett, FCSI (Executive Principal, Ricca Design Studios)
- Jeff Cook (Chief Engineer, Restaurant Solutions Group, McDonald’s Corp.)
- Richard Eisenbarth, FCSI (President/COO, Cini-Little Int’l.)
- Foster F. Frable Jr., FCSI Associate AIA (President, Clevenger Frable LaVallee)
- Randy Homer (Program Manager, Food & Beverage Operations Asset Management, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts)
- Jim Krueger Jr., CMCE, NRAMF (Chief, Air Force Food & Beverage Policy, Procedures, Business Development & Strategic Initiatives Air Force Services Activity (AFSVA) Food & Beverage Branch)
- Steve Otto (Director, Capital Equipment Purchasing, Darden)
- Jim Thorpe (Senior Food Service Designer, Aramark)
Photos and more details are available on the 2019 Kitchen Innovations Award webpage.
Merco/Welbilt: Visual Holding Cabinet with Tray Tracking Technology
Everyone knows how timers work. You set them, and they count down. Merco’s new Tray Tracking Technology takes it up a notch. Insert a tray and the timer starts automatically and counts down—and if you need to move the tray, the timer electronically stays with it, tracks to the new location, and continues counting.
Vulcan/ITW Food Equipment Group: Versatile Chef Station
The new Versatile Chef Station is a compact multi-function cooking station that serves as a griddle, saucepan, braising pan, steamer, pasta cooker, rethermalizer, and fryer all in one—and with its patented multilayered cooking surface, it’s faster, more accurate, more even, and easier to clean than a braising pan.
VT Burner Technology (in conjunction with Venancio USA): VT Burner
Infrared cooking offers speed and other advantages, but conventional IR burners generate IR through ceramic shields that are prone to cracking and replacement. Retrofittable VT Burner is cast steel, with a patented layered design that requires no ceramics to generate IR energy. It’s IR-fast, inexpensive, durable, and cuts gas consumption compared to standard burners.
Rational USA: UltraVent Plus
With the recirculating ventless hood market heating up, Rational has come up with the UltraVent Plus, the first one that is retrofittable, incorporates four filters and requires no catalytic converter for grilling and roasting, and comes in a configuration that can be retrofitted even to Rational Combi-Duo stacked electric countertop combis.
Lancer: TwinPour Beverage Dispenser
Lots of unique features in this new dispenser. In a 44” counterspace, TwinPour offers two dispense points and 266 flavors, allowing two customers to be served simultaneously. Each side accepts any style of ice and offers two choices. TwinPour dispenses all ice types and can be configured to dispense two types at the same time. Additional chilled water lines serve as cooling system for ancillary pieces of equipment.
Tortilla Masters Equipment: TM-105 Ventura Flex PL Tabletop Corn Tortilla Machine
Filling a huge hole in the U.S. market, Tortilla Masters introduces Ventura Flex, the first electric tabletop corn tortilla machine. At just 2’ x 2’, with a small high-torque motor, Ventura Flex produces up to 840 corn tortillas per hour. Molds and settings produce different sizes and thicknesses.
Henny Penny: Space$aver Team Combi
Unique in the U.S. market, the Space$aver Team combi combines two stacked, independently operated combis in a single frame and shell, with a single power cord and all the serviceable components centralized below. The 22”- wide footprint is topped with an integrated ventless hood using four-stage filtration for grease and vapors requiring no catalytic converter.
Chicago Bar Shop: SinkTech
Finally, someone automates the three-compartment sink. SinkTech uses sensors to determine water levels, temperature, and cleanliness. It automatically drains and fills sinks and saves time, energy, water, and money. It’s compact, installs without plumbing, and doesn’t interfere with washing or scrubbers. And it’s connected to the cloud for data on usage and compliance.
Chowbotics: Sally the Robot
Imagine providing fresh made-to-order foods 24/7 virtually anywhere, without on-duty labor. Sally the Robot serves customizable salads, yogurt bowls, grain bowls, and snacks using sophisticated robotics and algorithms to dispense accurate portions of hundreds of different ingredients. Sally delivers precise portions in a 3’ x 3’ footprint with a 120V socket.
Grindmaster: PrecisionBrew Air-Heated Shuttle Brewers
Grindmaster’s new Shuttle Brewers step up with a new level of sophistication. An advanced touchscreen offers detailed settings for time, temperature, pulsing, and more to match roasters’ specs. A magnetically driven agitator prevents suspended solids from settling, and shuttles are heated by recirculating hot air rather than electric coils that cause hot spots and scorching.
Bear Robotics: Penny
Meet Penny, a foodservice robot with artificial intelligence that drives autonomously. Designed to maneuver in tight, crowded quarters, Penny shuttles food from kitchen to tables and brings dishes back for cleaning. Tray shape, suspension, everything is optimized for foodservice needs. Penny 2 will feature an upgraded design a tablet, communicate with customers and take orders.
Cornelius Marmon/Berkshire Hathway: NitroProMini
Answering the challenge of bringing down the size of systems for nitrogenated coffee and other beverages, the NitroPro Mini goes tankless—no nitrogen storage needed—instead generating its own nitro onboard, and has reduced the size of air compressors, valves, and flow controls. The result: simpler operation, simplified supply chain, and more compact footprint.
Vollrath Co.: Modular Induction Dry Well Drop-In
Induction dry well drop-ins are known for eliminating the water-related chores and expenses of traditional steam wells and slashing energy use by more than half. Vollrath’s new system features two independent induction zones per well, and unlike any before it, uses capsules in each zone with fold-in, fold-out legs to accommodate both 2.5”- and 4”- deep full-size or half-size pans.
Small is good. Hoshizaki has found a way to dispense four kinds of water—chilled, hot, alkaline, and sparkling—in the smallest footprint ever. Patented technology chills and carbonates water on demand without a carbonator tank. No tank, no pressurizing pump needed. It all saves space and maintenance.
Jamix: Kitchen Management System
Choosing KMS software can be challenging, but Jamix sets itself apart on several points. Whereas many offer recipe and menu management and costing, Jamix also ties in inventory management and procurement. Plus, it’s true cloud-based, and can be accessed with any browser, any operating system, any mobile device. Perhaps best of all, it’s extremely intuitive.
Antunes: Jet Steamer JS-1000
A blank-sheet rethink of countertop steaming: the Jet Steamer injects high-velocity steam into controlled bursts in a closed pitcher for complete penetration throughout the food within the pitcher, allowing for significantly faster cook times. The steam also mixes ingredients, saving operators’ time when preparing items such as soups, eggs, and chili.
Manitowoc Ice/Welbilt Corp.: Indigo NXT
Ice production and efficiency. The Indigo NXT line achieves both, with refinements that enable a combination of efficient rotary compressors and environmentally friendly R410a refrigerant, neither seen before in U.S. icemaking. In fact, Indigo NXT produces roughly 50 lbs. more ice daily and is an average of 11% more efficient than models using R404a.
Henny Penny: FlexFry
The first of its kind, FlexFry offers a combination of open frying and pressure frying in the same battery footprint. The new combo includes Henny Penny’s F-5 electric low oil volume platform and 2, 3 or 4 vats of pressure frying. Touchscreen interface, three-minute express filtration and auto top-off on the F-5 and for pressure frying an easy open/close lid and pressure assist technology.
Hobart Corp.: FT1000e Low Energy Series
Sometimes refinements are so comprehensive they amount to reinvention. This new flight-type warewasher features redesigned wash, airflow, and heat-retention elements, enabling use of lower electrical-draw components such as pumps, motors, heaters, etc. Result: 12%-20+% energy reduction depending on configuration, and smaller circuit breakers, all while maintaining wash quality.
Unox: Data Driven Cooking
Everyone has cooking software. Data Driven Cooking is different. DDC monitors oven usage, analyzing and recording cooking times, menu items, energy and water use, etc. And artificial intelligence uses that data to recommend operational patterns, new recipes, and more. Further, sensors in the oven calculate volume and mass and adjust cook times for different size batches.
CM Systems: ComplianceMate
ComplianceMate takes digital checklists and wireless temperature sensors to the next level with its first-in-foodservice LoRa (long range) communication protocol. Patented software and lower-cost LoRa transmits farther, using less battery power, than Bluetooth in difficult transmission environs like stainless steel deep freezers. Cloud-based data lets you identify trends across multiple locations.
Bluewater USA: Bluewater PRO 400 Water Purification System
A tankless design streamlines the Pro 400 reverse-osmosis system, which filters a broad array of contaminants for one or more appliances, from dishwashers and ice makers to steamers and coffee makers. The system produces up to 1825 gallons daily. An optional storage tank accommodates very high demand use, without affecting the efficiency and performance of the purifier.
Baxter Manufacturing: BV400G VersaOven
Presenting a new level of versatility, the VersaOven is a self-cleaning, programmable gas rack oven that offers convection and non-boiler steam to serve as a steamer, rotisserie, convection oven, and combi oven for fast cooking. A rotating rack provides even roasting or baking. A patent-pending grease separation system aids in the cleaning.
Ecolab: Advanced Health Department Intelligence (HDI)
Ecolab’s newly reinvented HDI program capitalizes on next-generation technologies and a raft of new analytics for a whole new, greatly magnified view of health department activities across the country. It’s expanded the database to over 1.5M locations from 65,000+. Real-time alerts on numerous categories, data retrieval, and customer-facing dashboards all are cutting edge.
Apex Supply Chain Technologies: AXCESS 2000.H Pick-Up Station
Co-developed with Little Caesars, the AXCESS 2000.H Pick-Up Station is the industry’s first heated, self-serve order pick-up station. As orders are placed inside the device, an app notifies customers. Customers skip the line, input their pick-up code, opening the customers’ secured compartment containing their order. Customers grab their order and leave the store in seconds.
The Middleby Corp.’s Follett Products has promoted Mike Raycher to general manager and Jeff Maybruck to senior vice president of operations.
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