From the Editor: Gearing Up for the National Restaurant Association Show

With insight from a Kitchen Innovations program judge, Editor-in-Chief Allison Rezendes shares 2024 product themes and highlights.

Allison for WEB

One of my favorite parts of the year comes when the Kitchen Innovations Award recipients take the stage at the National Restaurant Association Show in May. The showroom marks a convenient place to find the latest equipment for foodservice facilities. For highlights of this year’s program, I visited with Lenny Condenzio, CEO of Ricca Design Studios. He’s one of nine judges who selected the recipients. Here are a few things to know about the 2024 group:

These products test the limits. The KI program only recognizes products that are new to the industry. “We have a responsibility to bring truly innovative items to that exhibit,” Condenzio says. The judges challenge each other to look at products in different ways, he says. They come from various segments, from consultants to commercial and noncommercial operators. And they do their homework, often going back to the manufacturers and asking for more information before making a final decision.

Robots have become more practical. One thing that stood out to Condenzio about this year’s group is how robots have become more applicable to the real world. “A lot of manufacturers are persistent in getting robots to work in a foodservice operation, where they’re subject to water and grease,” he says. Plus, manufacturers have made robots smaller, making them even more appealing to operators.

Products—and operators—can do more with less. Condenzio saw it as a 2024 theme, whether it was a product that does more with less water or energy, or a unit that helps operators boost throughput with fewer employees.

For those who can visit the KI showroom, Condenzio recommends taking the time to look at each recipient and really understand what it has accomplished. “You can’t just walk past the booth and say, ‘That doesn’t apply to me’ because embracing it might help you understand what applications it has that you never thought of before,” he says. And for those who can’t attend the show, see our coverage here. I hope you find something that prepares you for your next adventure.



At FER, we’re about equipment and then some. We report on equipment, like the KI Award recipients, that solve problems as well as design solutions. The following marks three smart design features, courtesy of our Kitchen Design series:

  1. Sinusoidal Wave: At the University of Cincinnati, designers had to gather most of the serving stations along one wall but not in such a way that it looked like an outdated straight line. The solution was a sinusoidal wave where, from a bird’s eye view, the stations dip down and rise up.
  2. Stainless Step: It’s one of the most delightful design aspects of the concept Twisted by Wetzel’s. The stainless step gives little kids the boost they need to watch the pretzel-making process.
  3. Multipurpose Counter: Speaking of doing more with less, in one footprint, a guest-facing counter at the Hyatt Regency Salt Lake City can switch from a self-serve buffet at breakfast to a working counter for cooks at lunch and dinner. Undermount cold and hot equipment and portable food shields support it.



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