CHICAGO — What do a touchless sauce dispenser, cockroach killer, two ice machines and a robotic pizza assembler have in common? They’re all winners in the 2021 Kitchen Innovation Awards, recognized as the year’s most forward-thinking and cutting-edge innovations that have meaningfully improved foodservice operations.
The awards were announced by the National Restaurant Association Show, the premier event and resource to learn about foodservice technology innovations, unique ingredients and emerging trends in the restaurant industry.
“Innovation is what keeps our industry moving forward, and we are proud to recognize these 16 recipients as the year’s best equipment advancements that improve back-of-house operations to benefit foodservice operators,” said Tom Cindric, president of Winsight Exhibitions. “These companies leverage technology to create products that increase efficiency, productivity and the bottom line, which is needed now more than ever as restaurants continue to operate through the ongoing challenges brought on by the pandemic.”
The awards program has earned a reputation for defining the gold standard of foodservice equipment innovations. The recipients reflect the trends and topics most important to foodservice operators today—and showcase the future of the industry—while generating industry growth through a focus on automation, efficiency, safety improvements, sustainability, waste solutions and more. All KI award recipients will be featured on The Show To Go, a cost-free digital marketplace where operators can connect directly with the suppliers to learn more about each of these innovative solutions.
Click through to peruse the list of winners …
Touchless Sauce Dispenser: This dispenser from Antunes is a safer, cleaner and more precise way to serve condiments. Optical sensors and unique vacuum pullback technology provide exact, touch-free portions, eliminating handpumps and packets. Its modular design configures to any store, front- and back-of-house. It is customizable with a variable number of nozzles, product viscosities, ambient/heated temperatures and volumes dispensed. Antunes is based in Carol Stream, Ill.
GemX Narrow IntelliFresh Coffee Brewer with FreshTrac: The new Curtis GemX Narrowis a powerful machine for superb coffee and beverage specialties. Just 10.5-inches in width, the fully automated GemX Narrow brews and dispenses twice the amount of coffee in the same space as a traditional single brewer maximizing precious counter space. This capacity is achieved through two narrow, 1.5-gallon dispensers that compactly fit onto the brewer. Curtis is based in Montebello, Calif.
CleanLite: Unlike UV sanitizing systems that carry risks with overexposure, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Eastern Tabletop’s CleanLite uses antimicrobial LED light technology patented by Vyv to illuminate in white light tuned with blue wavelengths that continually protect against bacteria, fungi, yeast, mold and mildew. The LED lights can be configured as standing fixtures over workstations and buffet systems, or in pendant and overhead fixtures for larger areas.
Cockroach Multi-Station: St. Paul, Minn.-based Ecolab’s new patented Cockroach Multi-Station is a discreet and durable device that detects cockroach introductions early and provides ongoing defense. The station’s unique design and curvature mimics cockroach harborages to facilitate greater attraction and the glue board’s placement helps capture them at higher rates to achieve quicker elimination compared with traditional glue boards.
Eloma, an Ali Group Company
Compact Pro: Finally a fully modular combi to fit your kitchen’s flow: With the Compact Pro from Eloma, an Ali Group Company, choose control panels on the right, left or top; door hinges on left or right; three cooking systems—convection/fresh steam, convection/steam injection or convection only. Choose between streamlined or advanced electronic HD touchscreen control, and two cleaning systems including autocleanPRO. Plus, a design module featuring a variety of options and accessories. Eloma, based in Germany, has its U.S. headquarters in Vernon Hills, Ill.
FilterQuick 120: Created for the unique challenges of cooking high volumes of fresh-breaded, heavy-sediment, bone-in chicken products, this 120-lb. fryer from Frymaster/Welbilt employs a unique automatic filtration system. The sloped-bottom frypot features multiple oil-return ports sequentially controlled to funnel high pressure oil spray throughout specific parts of the frypot for effective washdown without clogging. Features includes automatic direct internet connection, real-time data collection and remote diagnostics. Frymaster/Welbilt is based in New Port Richey, Fla.
AMTL Two Level Door Type Dish Machine with Hobart Smart Connect IOT App: The only two-level dish machine on the market, the AMTL from Troy, Ohio-based Hobart FEG features an upper chamber that acts as a typical door style dish machine, with a 17-inch door opening, delivering 80 racks per hour. The lower chamber functions as a single rack washer ideal for pots, pans, flatware or utensils. The two levels can operate concurrently, or the lower level can be turned off independently.
2by2 ice cube machine, IM-50BAA-LM: With the premium-cocktail solid-ice market going crazy, the 2x2 undercounter model from Japan-based Hoshizaki is the first ice machine in the North American market to make an ice cube this large: Measuring 1.9 inches by 1.9 inches by 2.2 inches with just a very small dimple on the long side, this ice is perfect for cocktails that require just the right amount of chill without too much dilution and a stunning presentation. Hoshizaki’s U.S. headquarters is in Peachtree City, Ga.
USE0050A-161: Large ice used to require large, bulky machines. New Port Richey, Fla.-based Manitowoc’s USE0050-161 charts a new course for large cubes through a reimagined evaporator design resulting in a compact gourmet ice machine. Small in size but big on features, the machine includes onboard water filtration for crystal clear cubes, and a membrane touchpad for effortless operation.
MX-Infuser: Want to marinate in 10 minutes instead of 48 hours? How about limoncello in 30 minutes instead of four weeks? The MX-Infuser/Vacuum Sealer from Orange, Calif.-based Minipack America offers sophisticated algorithms and single-touch icons to perform numerous processes from sous vide to marinating in two functions and three levels of intensity or infusing in four levels of intensity. The compact design comes in eight body colors with a soft closure transparent lid.
Automated Pizza Assembly System: The automated, robotic Picnic Pizza assembly system reduces food waste and labor costs while increasing hygiene due to no-touch handling of ingredients. The Picnic system uses the operator’s recipe and uses precise amounts of sauce and toppings and sends it directly to the oven. All the staff does is place prepared dough on the conveyor. Features include intuitive touchscreen interface, optional POS integration and a customer portal for customized pizzas. Picnic is based in Seattle.
iCombi Pro: Rational elevates combi oven technology with the iCombi Pro. Advanced features include cooking intelligence that lets the operator indicate the results wanted, such as browning and doneness, and even allows mid-process changes. Thermocouples detect cooking conditions, adjusting energy to match needs. Additional air reversing fans improve heat distribution and flow. Results: Better quality, 50% more productivity and 10% quicker cooking. Rational USA is based in Rolling Meadows, Ill.
Luccy: The first-of-its-kind, fully automated Luccy produces fresh, warm, ready-to-eat, premium hummus in seconds at any point-of-sale or serving point. Luccy, from Hauppauge, N.Y.-based Sunshine Innovations, produces high volumes with adjustable portions and endless recipes, without any human intervention. Luccy is sized to fit in any kitchen or display and is easy and inexpensive to maintain.
T&S Brass and Bronze Works
WaterWatch: This industry-first water-monitoring system detects leaks and helps optimize conservation measures using a smartphone-sized device that straps onto a restaurant’s main water line. The device, from Travelers Rest, S.C.-based T&S Brass and Bronze Works, “listens” to the flow of water in the pipes and uses machine learning to identify the unique sound signatures of various fixtures to notify operators of leaks or catastrophic failures and support efficiency efforts.
TurboChef Technologies, LLC
Plexor: Picture three independent ovens—a convection oven, an impingement oven, a speed oven or any combination thereof—stacked in a single footprint. Then picture them all ventless, auto-loading and unloading, working off a single control panel and a single shared plug. Plexor’s modular design not only offers all that but also enables cooking modules to be field swapped to accommodate future menu changes. Plexor is from Carrollton, Texas-based TurboChef Technologies.
Unox Inc. Multi.Day
Multi.Day Hot Vacuum: Think of the food safety and labor savings: This patented Multi.Day Hot Vacuum system, from Italy-based Unox Inc., allows you to vacuum-store hot food in Multi.Day trays and transport it anywhere without the risk of liquid spills or contamination from outside. In less than 60 seconds, the tray is hot-vacuum sealed and ready for transport to satellite locations, preserving food at service temperature for days, eliminating refrigeration and retherm processes. Unox has its U.S. headquarters in Denver, N.C.