The National Restaurant Association announced the recipients of the 2017 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 2017 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show, held from May 20—23 in Chicago at McCormick Place.

“The engineers and inventors who develop these KI Award innovations work tirelessly to solve the challenges of back-of-the-house operations, to the great benefit of restaurant operators,” says Atour Eyvazian, Convention Chair for NRA Show 2017 and multiunit owner of 107 Jack in the Box restaurants in Houston and San Antonio. “The KI award is a testament to their contributions in improving the foodservice industry.”

The 2017 KI Award recipients reflect the trends and topics most important to foodservice operators today. The 18 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 2017 Kitchen Innovations Award recipients are:

Alto-Shaam by Appliance Innovation

Vector Multi-Cook Oven

For the ultimate in full-menu flexibility, the ventless Vector Multi-Cook oven offers up to four independently controlled cook chambers. Advanced “Structured Air Technology” takes evenness and speed to a new level. Each chamber gets its own 10-speed fan and multi-stage programming for unparalleled precision.


Dual Zone Egg Station

Great for all-day breakfast flexibility, the Dual Zone Egg Station’s unique split cover divides the grill surface into two independent cooking zones for quick on-demand eggs. Cook on one zone or two, larger or smaller batches, depending on demand. The two-channel timer allows operators to time each zone separately.


Nitro Blending System

What if you could blend a drink in the same cup it’s served in? Just lock the individual disposable cup into place, and go. The system not only assures portion control, but it also reduces handling, improves sanitation and saves labor—not to mention rinse and wash water.



Leaping into the next gen of insect light traps, the STEALTH LED uses LED technology to achieve industry-leading effectiveness while slashing energy consumption and eliminating the need for a high-voltage ballast and fluorescent bulbs. The compact, discreet design makes placement easier for both front and back of house, and the LED bulbs are shatterproof to help protect food safety.


XPress Grill

Garland’s Xpress Grill takes energy and temperature management to the next level with a controller that automatically adapts to either 208V or 240V. PID software continuously modulates power to maintain set point, unlike conventional on/off cycling. Cooking lanes are independently controlled, separated with grooves under the grill plate to prevent heat migration. Each lane can be set at a different temperature or even turned off when not needed.


CLeN Conveyor Warewasher with Drain Water Energy Recovery

With waste heat recovery critical in warewashing, Hobart has found that drain-water energy recovery solves multiple challenges at once. Not only is waste heat recovered to preheat incoming water, but with drain water temperatures reduced, the need for tempering water also is greatly reduced, saving significant water consumption.


M-iClean UM With GiO Module

Finally, an undercounter hot-water sanitizing glasswasher that boasts an integrated reverse-osmosis filtration system. The R-O system removes the water impurities that cause spotting, eliminating the need for hand polishing. ENERGY STAR listed, the model uses just 0.61 gallons/rack. An illuminated door handle glows blue for ready, green for washing and red for messages.


MercoMax Visual Holding Cabinet

The MercoMax offers a new answer to the age-old challenge of visual QSR style hot holding with a combination of radiant heat beneath the shelves and forced-air convection from fans above each holding zone. A bright 7” touchscreen display, visible from across the kitchen, shows what’s being held and status.


WOW 2 Grilling System

The new Wow 2 Grilling System is a Middleby-CTX infrared conveyor oven broiling at 1000°F, and doing it with an advanced controller that saves enough energy to the heating elements that it only requires a 30-amp breaker rather than the typical 50-60-amp unit. Special pans, plates and high-temp alloys provide the grilled effect.


Met-ALL Induction System

Until now, induction cooking in North America operated at a frequency that worked only with ferrous pans. No more. Panasonic’s Met-ALL works with any kind of pan, whether iron, steel, copper, or aluminum, automatically sensing the metal and adjusting accordingly. A real game changer for induction.


Roll-O-Matic Silverware Rolling Machine

Unlike anything else on the market, the Roll-O-Matic silverware/utensil and napkin rolling machine brings automated rolling within reach of casual dining, cruise ships, hotels and more. The machine neatly rolls and bands all kinds of flatware, even chopsticks, UV sanitized, at the rate of 500 sets per hour.


SelfCookingCenter XS Model 6 2/3

With the XS Model 6 2/3, RATIONAL manages to get all of the advanced features of its full-size SelfCookingCenter® combis into a package that’s roughly 60% smaller. At only 21 ¾” deep, 25 ¾” wide, and 22 ¼” high, this is the only combi this compact that even offers its own steam generator.

Royal Range of California

RHEF-45 High Efficiency Fryer

The thing about high efficiency fryers is that they’re mainly expensive models with bells and whistles. Royal changes that with the RHEF-45, a 14”, 45-lb. model that delivers truly high efficiency in a straightforward package. The RHEF-45 offers three in-shot burners, total 99k Btu, with one of the lowest-ever flue temps at 370°F, 62.6% efficiency and 70.6 lbs./hr. production capacity.



Want the versatility of a combi’s convection-steam-combi modes, but want it straightforward and up front on the cookline? The TruVapor delivers with a low profile that fits into the line and serves as a base for a rangetop or griddle. A steam generator provides plenty of power.

Standex Refrigerated Solutions Group (Nor-Lake and Master-Bilt)

Keg Management System

Standex’s KMS is an integrated walk-in keg box solution that finally addresses injury risks inherent with employees wrestling and lifting a 160-lb. keg. The KMS features a suspended track and electric hoist system, with cantilevered shelving, that moves kegs anywhere within the walk in. A digital scale helps inventory partial kegs.

Turbo Coil

Dual Zone Mega Top Prep Table

Turbo Coil uses two of its patented compact evaporator coils, one for the pan section and one for the storage section, and seals off both sections, making each completely independent. A single master controller sets both temperatures and runs both coils. The result is better temperature control and greatly reduced energy usage.



The ventless Double Batch oven uses two independently controlled high-speed cooking cavities to maximize throughput while requiring minimal space and energy consumption. The cavities are controlled by a split-screen, Wi-Fi connected capacitive touch controller, which allows the user to intuitively and quickly control either cavity simultaneously. Air impingement technology and an oscillating rack make for rapid, even cooking.


VC5G Gas Convection Oven

Nobody likes dirty, hard-to-clean oven door windows. Enter Vulcan’s new VC5G Gas Convection Oven with fully removable, dishwasher-safe doors. Just lift them off—at 20 lbs. they’re easy to handle—and put them in the dishwasher or a 3-compartment sink. Another big plus—one of the best convection oven cooking efficiency scores ever in ENERGY STAR® testing.

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 2017 Kitchen Innovations judges are:

  • Dan Bendall, FCSI (Principal, FoodStrategy, Inc.)
  • David Chislett (Executive Principal, Ricca Design Studios)
  • Jeff Cook (Chief Engineer, Restaurant Solutions Group, McDonald’s Corporation)
  • Richard Eisenbarth, FCSI (President / COO, Cini-Little International)
  • 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] San Antonio, TX)
  • Aaron Lamotte (Senior Director, Performance Interiors Sodexo Performance Interiors)
  • Steve Otto (Director, Capital Equipment Purchasing, Darden)

As the global restaurant and hospitality industry’s premier trade show, the NRA Show brings together more restaurant and hospitality buyers and equipment manufacturers than any other industry event. To register, please visit 

Industry News, Kitchen Equipment