National Restaurant Association Announces Kitchen Innovations Award Recipients

The National Restaurant Association announced the recipients of the 2016 Kitchen Innovations (KI) Awards, honoring forward-thinking equipment and technologies that increase efficiencies and productivity for back-of-the-house operations and benefit restaurant operators. Each recipient and their product will be showcased in the interactive Kitchen Innovations Pavilion at the 2016 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show, held from May 21-24 in Chicago at McCormick Place.

“KI Award recipients exemplify the advancements from foodservice industry professionals that solve the complex challenges of day-to-day back-of-house operations,” says Lisa Ingram, convention chair for NRA Show 2016 and president and CEO of White Castle System, Inc. “Recognition by our esteemed independent panel of judges, who have a wealth of combined institutional knowledge, underscores the true innovation of the award recipients and their contribution to making our foodservice industry even better.”

The 2016 KI Award recipients reflect the trends and topics most important to foodservice operators today. The 25 selected innovations address operator concerns from labor, energy and water efficiency to food safety, sanitation, cross-functionality and space-saving. New software and new materials continue to make new solutions possible.

The 2016 Kitchen Innovations Award recipients are:

Beverage Air

Versa Cool Portable Walk-In Cooler

The Versa-Cool Portable Walk-In Cooler sets up in five minutes and pulls down to 38 degrees in minutes. It offers 105-cubic feet of storage and a 1,000-pound capacity diamond-tread floor.



The new Hoodini is a self-contained, ventless hood currently available on Blodgett Mini Combi 6 and 10 pan ovens. The innovative closed, recirculating system removes steam, smoke and fumes, even when cooking raw proteins. The ventless hood lets the user place the oven just about anywhere, freeing up valuable kitchen space.

Champion Industries

Ventless Conveyor Warewasher With Heat Recovery

The new ventless conveyor with heat recovery from Champion offers a unique combination of a variable-speed fan with an independently mounted heat pump to collect a full 100 percent of the operating exhaust energy as well as the vapor. The vapor is fully absorbed and the exhaust energy is repurposed to aid in heating the wash and final rinse water.


Dump Commander

Detecto’s new U.S.-made Dump Commander, narrow and mobile enough to wheel anywhere the user needs it, offers mechanical lifting power to dump a commercial trashcan-sized containers into a larger bin. The rechargeable battery-operated system, which uses a single-column chain-drive lifting mechanism, can be operated by a single person.

Duke Mfg.

Modular Production Center

Duke’s new Modular Production Center combines advanced ergonomics in a compact footprint. The patented Tri-Channel design provides even cooling across entire depth of the unit due to multiple cold wall construction. Duke’s KOOL refrigeration system holds temps steady in environments exceeding NSF7 ambient kitchen temperature requirements.

Ecomarks Plastics

Quick Flip Pan

Ecomarks has streamlined the labor and materials expense of conventional paper food-storage labels with the new Quick Flip Pan. The easy-to-use polycarbonate pan features an embedded, reusable label—fill it in with a grease pencil and erase with a cloth or paper towel. Pans are available in vibrant industry standard day colors.

Follett Corp.

Horizon 1010 & 1410 Ice Machines

Conventional extruded ice systems feed fresh water opposite the harvest end and rarely, if ever, flush, but Follett’s new Horizon 1010 and 1410 models introduce fresh water on the harvest end with frequent small volume flushes, reducing scale buildup and producing pure ice with optimal dispensing qualities without wasting water.

Franke Coffee Systems North America

A600 Espresso Machine

Franke’s new premium-class A600 superautomatic espresso machine combines innovative FoamMaster technology with a patented brew unit and a breakthrough fully-automated clean-in-place system. Additionally, the intuitive eight-inch touchscreen, with both image and video capability, allows the selection of beverages to be set individually and adapted to exact requirements.

CT7 Countertop Cold-Press Juicer
Goodnature has lightened and condensed components to introduce its compact countertop CT7 Press, a new ergonomic cold-press machine built for the single juice bar countertop space. Weighing just 75 pounds and measuring only 22 inches deep, the CT7 can produce six juices at a time, averaging up to nine gallons per hour.


CircuFlow Sealed Burner

The CircuFlow sealed burner uses a dual-flow valve technology to feed two chambers, a main and a simmer, to achieve maximum turndown ratio. The CircuFlow can produce power as high as 30,000 BTU/hour for searing and broiling and as low as 1,500 BTU/hour for simmering, an impressive 20:1 ratio.

Kitchen Brains

SCK Food Safety Manager

A significant advancement over paper forms and temperature monitoring, Food Safety Manager is designed to simplify labor-intensive HACCP checklists. It combines paperless checklists with wireless automatic temperature monitoring in a single software platform. FSM operates from existing devices, delivering smart checklists that can be viewed from anywhere, stored in the cloud. 

Manitowoc Foodservice

Merrychef eikon e2s

The Merrychef eikon e2s is a small footprint, high-speed convection/microwave oven with a new, innovative design with cutting-edge technologies. Innovative placement of the magnetrons and use of air-curtain techniques allow a narrow footprint and cool touch surfaces. Offering best-in-class: speed, heat up and cool down times, energy efficiency, noise level, cleanability and cavity-to-footprint ratio.

Manitowoc Foodservice

Multiplex N2Fusion Beverage System

Nitrogenized coffee delivers an effervescent consumer experience that incorporates a thick creamy foam head to enhance the taste profile and is a hot new trend for coffee enthusiasts. The Multiplex N2Fusion Beverage System lets the user add nitrogen to a beverage at the point of dispense. The beverage is stored in a refrigerated base and dispensed by the operator/consumer as a nitrogenized/non-nitrogenized on demand drink.



Meiko is raising the bar on water conservation with its GreenEye integrated system for flight-type warewashers. A light coaching system indicates which conveyor belt lanes should be filled for maximum water efficiency. Sensors detect where the ware is, and these lanes are then targeted for optimal delivery of fresh rinse water only where needed.

Nemco Food Equipment


The RinseWell by Nemco DWC (dipper well controller) turns an ordinary dipper well into a smart, water efficient and sanitary dipper well. Instead of a perpetual flow of water, it circulates sanitizing aqueous ozone while monitoring water quality to determine when fresh water needs to be introduced. Real time analytics are easily accessed and shareable.


KitchenManagement System

Moving ahead in remote communications, the KitchenManagement System lets operators manage and control up to 30 RATIONAL combi ovens from a central computer. Monitor and control appliances through a Windows virtual control panel, allowing for menu updates, cooking profile changes, HACCP documentation delivery, and power control.

Restaurant Technologies


AutoMist is an automated hood, flue, and fan cleaner designed to eliminate the hazardous buildup of grease in food service kitchens. AutoMist replaces manual hood and flue cleaning services by automatically cleaning daily to keep the hood, flue and fan consistently clean, greatly reducing the risk of fire.

Star Manufacturing

Rolling Tortilla Warmer

The Rolling Tortilla warmer eliminates a critical production bottleneck for high-volume restaurants serving tortillas, flat bread, and pitas. The simple and portable design of this versatile product uses an innovative heated drum and radiant elements to warm tortillas to a target temperature of 160 degrees in seconds. Standard 120V power at less than 12-amp draw. No hood is required, so the warmer can work anywhere from front-of-the-house to food trucks.

Strahman Valves

HydroSwivel Sweeper

Designed for great flexibility and maneuverability in low, tight spaces, the HydroSwivel Sweeper is a multi-functioning floor cleaning tool that features a 360 degree, fully articulated HydroSwivel joint and uses high-velocity water at normal domestic supply pressures to effectively clean most floor surfaces with minimal impact.

Taylor Company

Advanced Grill Controls

Taylor’s newly enhanced grill software features an intuitive touch screen interface that expands functionality and offers energy-savings standby mode. The advanced software allows for easy menu flexibility and future expansion. The four-flat time mode allows the operator cook four different items within the same zone, no need for a remote timer.

Turbo Coil

72-inch Chef Base With Glycol/R290/R404A Refrigeration

This four-drawer refrigerated chef base gets ahead of new EPA regulations with glycol cooled by R290 propane (or R404a) refrigerant with two Turbo Coil coils. In a second innovation, the system uses glycol directly to cool the evaporator coil, greatly speeding recovery and reducing energy consumption.

The Vollrath Company

Stoelting AutoVend System

Frozen soft serve from a vending machine—Stoelting’s AutoVend dispenses up to two flavors and four toppings in multiple sizes, including one spoon per cup, all within 30 seconds of the items being selected. The system is operator programmable, linked real time for easy analytics, and sends real time service/maintenance email alerts.


ABC7 Combi Oven Steamer

Vulcan’s ABC7 takes the guesswork out of combi cooking with intuitive controls driven by a cooking algorithm that automatically selects humidity level based on operator temperature selection. The ABC7 delivers combi performance and combi results with no confusing modes, elaborate programming or extensive training.


Low Water Energy (LWE) Steamer

The best of both worlds—Vulcan’s LWE offers the performance of a steam generator with 90 percent less water and 50 percent less energy of a connectionless steamer. By controlling excess steam production, water and electric usage is drastically reduced. It’s the first Energy Star qualified à la carte, countertop, generator-based convection steamer.

WP Bakery Systems


Fresh from Germany, the high speed ITES oven takes food straight from frozen to baked using a new, patent pending modification of infrared heating elements that alter the IR wavelengths. This alteration allows the heat to penetrate deep into frozen products, baking from the inside out while retaining product moisture.

An independent panel of industry experts, comprised of internationally recognized food facilities consultants, multi-unit restaurant executives, and design experts, selected the KI Award recipients. The 2016 Kitchen Innovations judges are:

  • Dan Bendall, FCSI (Principal, FoodStrategy, Inc.)
  • Martin Cowley (Senior Manager, Design and Standards, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts).
  • William Eaton, FFCSI (Chairman of the Board, Cini-Little International).
  • Foster F. Frable, Jr., FCSI, Associate AIA (Founding Partner, Clevenger Frable LaVallee).
  • Jim Krueger, Jr., CMCE, NRAMF (Chief, Air Force Food & Beverage Business Development & Strategic Initiatives Air Force Services Activity (AFSVA) San Antonio, TX).
  • Aaron LaMotte (Senior Director, Performance Interiors an Contract Utilization Sodexo Performance Interiors).
  • Robert Marshall (Vice President, U.S. Operations, McDonald’s Corporation: Retired)
  • Steve Otto (Director, Capital Equipment Purchasing, Darden).
  • Kathleen H. Seelye, FFCSI, LEED (Managing Partner, Ricca Design Studios).

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