Find the Future of Equipment in the NRA Kitchen Innovations Showroom
Walk through the Kitchen Innovations Showroom (booth 2440) at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, May 18-21, and you’ll find a robot named Penny that takes customers’ orders and another named Sally that prepares custom salads. There are sensors for sinks that monitor water temperature and software that recommends recipes based on menu patterns. It might feel like a scene from "The Jetsons," but rather than an imaginative look into the future, it’s a glimpse into the present day of foodservice equipment. New technology and creative approaches to equipment and procedures have led to products that improve operations, increase productivity and efficiency and offer added convenience to operators and customers.
For 15 years, the Kitchen Innovations Awards have recognized equipment that brings something new to the foodservice industry. "The key drivers of innovation are the needs to reduce operating costs, improve food quality and advance or safeguard food safety," says Brian Ward, Fe3, Target Market & Media Services, who serves as the consultant and project manager for the KI Awards program.
Although KI recipients represent a wide variety of creativity and ingenuity, one trend unites them. "The arrival of robotics and artificial intelligence in foodservice really stands out in several of this year’s recipients," Ward says.
Manufacturers are answering traditional concerns facing operators—such as labor costs and efficiency—with nontraditional solutions. "With rising job creation and lower unemployment, the demand for robotics is rising," says Ward. Other solutions are products that combine multiple cooking operations into one equipment piece or those that help cut energy and water use for cost savings and environmental benefits.
This year, the NRA Show celebrates its 100th anniversary, providing an opportunity to reflect on the organization’s work on behalf of the foodservice industry and look to what the next 100 years will bring. The KI Awards Showroom serves as a place where attendees get to experience the future of the industry firsthand. "KI is all about looking ahead to what’s new and what’s next," Ward says.
- Dan Bendall, Principal, FoodStrategy Inc.
- David Chislett, FCSI, Executive Principal, Ricca Design Studios
- Jeff Cook, Senior Director Global Equipment, McDonald’s Corp
- Richard Eisenbarth, FCSI, President/CEO, 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, Food & Beverage Policy, Procedures, Business Development & Strategic Initiatives, Air Force Services Agency Food & Beverage Branch
- Steve Otto, Director, Capital Equipment Purchasing, Darden
- Jim Thorpe, Senior Food Service Designer, Aramark
2019 KI Award Judges
- Alto-Shaam Inc. Booth # 4840
- American Panel Corp. . Booth # 460
- Continental Refrigerator . Booth # 5202
- Cres Cor. Booth # 3150
- Edlund Co. LLC/Ali Group. Booth # 5013
- Elite Global Solutions. Booth # 7645
- Equipex. Booth # 2213
- FWE/Food Warming Equipment Co. . Booth # 3813
- Hoshizaki America Inc. . Booth # 6212
- HOST 2019 . Booth # 9337
- ITW Food Equipment Group . Booth # 4031
- Jackson WWS . Booth # 6212
- Prince Castle/Marmon . Booth # 4848
- Scotsman Ice Systems/Ali Group . Booth # 5001
- Server Products . Booth # 4254
- Service Ideas . Booth # 3624
- Thunder Group . Booth # 2250
- Thunderbird Food Machinery Inc. . Booth # 3646
- Turbo Air Inc. . Booth # 2240
- Vollrath Co. LLC, The . Booth # 4413
- The Wasserstrom Co. . Booth # 3818
- Welbilt . Booth # 3401
- Wood Stone . Booth # 4668