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NRA Show Names 2023 KI Award Winners

The National Restaurant Association Show named 20 products as the recipients of its 2023 Kitchen Innovations Awards. These products “celebrate the back-of-house innovations that improve operations and generate growth through advances in automation, sustainability, efficiency, space-saving and more,” per the show organizer.

The following is a list of the KI winners along with a description provided by the NRA Show and edited by FE&S for style and clarity.

Aniai aGrill (Alpha Grill) from Aniai: Alpha Grill is a cooking robot that follows the operator’s burger recipe and cleans itself so that staff can focus on other priorities. A dual cooking surface on the top and bottom grills cook eight patties in less than one minute, per the maker. The Alpha Grill raises burger patties into top platens, times cooking, picks up the cooked patties (no flipping required), and delivers them to a front-mount warming tray. AI, optical and other sensors check the quality.

Intelligent French Fry Robotic Solution from Atosa USA Inc.: Atosa’s robotic system uses a six-axis robotic arm similar to the ones used in manufacturing automobiles. The collaborative “co-bot” solution works in auto or manual mode, with or without staffers, and includes a french fry (or other) refrigerated or frozen hopper/dispenser, robotic arm, fryer battery with filtration, ventless hood with Ansul fire suppression, and dump station. Operators can integrate this solution with existing fry batteries.

Costa Smart Café Marlow 1.2 from The Coca-Cola Company: Costa Smart Café is an autonomous piece of equipment that provides barista-quality coffee at the touch of a button, per the maker. It can craft and dispense more than 100 hot and iced drinks before any human assistance is needed.

ConvoSense from Convotherm, a Welbilt Brand: ConvoSense is an AI-powered, fully automated combi oven cooking and baking system. Adept at mixed loads, food can be loaded all at once or one tray at a time. ConvoSense recognizes the food as it is loaded and launches the correct cooking program for each tray while simultaneously managing the entire cooking cavity for consistent results.

LXnR by Hobart – ITW Food Equipment Group: LXnR is a warewasher featuring a two-level undercounter rack design and is NSF certified. The unit increases throughput while reducing water, energy, and labor, per the maker. Rated at 48 racks/hour, the design consists of a molded rack guide and removable wire rack equipped to fit bowls, plates and utensils.

Taylor Hydra Rinse with Configurable Pro Controller from Taylor’s Hydra Rinse: Hydra Rinse now features a configurable pro-controller that allows users to clean different soft serve/shake machine models with one system. As before, without disassembling the machine, just attach the Hydra Rinse system and auto clean in half the typical cycle time, regardless of staff skill level, for a cleaner machine and better tasting mix, per the maker.

ImmersaFlex from Immersion Systems Inc.: Designed for flexible rapid food thawing, washing of fruits and vegetables, seafood de-glazing and general washing, ImmersaFlex uses a process of immersion to create water convection for thawing and de-glazing and powerful wash action for washing processes, per the maker. No difficult-to-clean and inspect pumps or manifolds. The load capacity is 150 pounds. The system is completely process controlled and the system clean-out and sanitation are fully automatic.

Hybrid Kold Pak Dual Temp Saute Station from Kwick Cool: The challenge for saute stations is holding open-pan temps at/below 40 degrees F without freezing the bottom of the pan even while sauteing inches away. FSTC test data show Kwick Cool’s solution solves the issue by a big margin, per the maker. Chilled, sealed glycerin pouches insulate and chill the rails against heat migration. One thermostat controls each pan rail offering choice of two temperatures depending on the product being held.

FryBot from Lab2Fab: With fully automated technology, including a seven-axis robotic arm, FryBot can fry two separate frozen foods, up to 30 lbs. of each. Collaborative technology allows humans and robots to operate in the same workspace using safety sensors to ensure the safety of all employees. Depending on food item and programmed cook time, FryBot can fry more than 50 baskets per hour with a 2-vat (4 basket) system.

Merrychef conneX with Automated Panini Press from Merrychef, a Welbilt Brand: The new Merrychef conneX range with panini press is a first high-speed cooking platform that delivers a full 16-inch square cooking cavity allowing both batch and on-demand cooking in an 18-inch UL certified ventless countertop platform. The tri-pleX technology allows for fast, quiet and energy efficient use of this speed oven. The patented press accessory, unattached to the oven, slides in and out with one handed ease. A newly engineered auto-lift of the press enables smooth loading/unloading.

SafetySuite from PathSpot Technologies Inc.: SafetySuite is a comprehensive health and safety operating system. SafetySuite offers complete flexibility, configurability, integrated remote temperature monitoring, food labeling, expiry management, compliance forms for key task validation and audit forms to digitize safety inspection notes. It’s all networked with the company’s HandScanner, a Fluorescent spectroscopy unit that detects microbial contamination on hands, logs data, etc.

PreciTaste from PreciTaste: With 2,000-plus food AI systems, PreciTaste is an AI kitchen management system that optimizes operations through real-time guidance in foodservice entities nationwide. The solution incorporates data augmentation from a proprietary database and machine learning to manage kitchen operations, resulting in increased productivity and profit. The scalable PreciTaste provides crew assistance based on demand predictions with the option to add vision sensing for key kitchen tasks including bulk prep, inventory planning and workstation management.

SmartVide XL and 30-gallon Precision Rethermalizer Tank from Sammic: Sous vide is widely known for precise time/temp-controlled cooking, but it has always been restricted to a small amount of servings. Operators can now serve hundreds of portions with the same precision as typical countertop sous vide tank thanks to Sammic’s SmartVide XL combined with the groundbreaking technology and connectivity of the new 30-gallon Precision Rethermalizer Tank.

Elevate Autonomous Retail Merchandiser from Structural Concepts: This is a smart solution for autonomous shopping. The unit can offset labor challenges in a merchandising format with increased capacity and a cashier-less transactional system. The unit has the ability to streamline inventory management, too.

UltraRinse from T&S Brass and Bronze Works: This is a spray nozzle specifically for rinsing produce and thawing proteins. UltraRinse is a retrofittable swing nozzle attachment equipped with unique angled fan-spray tips to create a broad, soft water spray across the maximum surface area. Two versions: a 10-inch arm to fit under 12-inch nozzles and a 16-inch arm for 18-inch nozzles. The 10-inch has three spray tips totaling 1.5 gpm flow rate; the 16-inch version has five tips totaling 1.5 gpm.

PLEXOR M2 from TurboChef Technologies LLC, a Middleby brand: TurboChef’s PLEXOR M2 features separate impingement and rapid-cook cavities — or two rapid-cook cavities. Like its A3 predecessor, the M2 is modular and can be prespecified or field swappable to any desired configuration. With just a 26.8-inch footprint and two full-sized cooking cavities, the M2 offers the ultimate ventless space efficiency, product range and throughput.

SPEED-X from UNOX INC.: In the ongoing trend to optimize versatility and food quality in ever-shrinking footprints, now there’s a combi oven that can do what speed ovens do, and a speed oven with auto-wash capability all in the same unit. As a combi, SPEED-X is 20% faster than a traditional combi oven, per the maker. As a speed oven combining steam, air and microwaves, it can cook food in seconds, including from raw.

SerVue - Touchless Refrigerated Slide-In from Vollrath Co.: Picture a traditional salad/food bar. Then replace the pans, breath guard and utensils with a row of enclosed, high-capacity canisters in a refrigerated chamber keeping the product covered and food-safe. Now picture sensors automating dispensing and portion control. That is the new SerVue, a touchless refrigerated slide-in food bar.

The Ellipse Blending System from Waring Commercial Products: The Ellipse Blending Solution uses top-down blending that can lead to shorter cycles, greater output, and more consistent results, per the maker.

Robojo - Powered by MyAppCafe from Zink: Robojo is a self-contained, untended robotic coffee kiosk. This unit is built around two WMF-5000S+ Super Automatic Espresso machines, a Scotsman nugget ice machine, two latte art printers, a refrigerator, and a Kawasaki robotic arm. The equipment is connected to the monitoring system via ethernet cables. Devices are plug and play, easily replaced. Customers pay via credit card terminal or a propriety app.

The 2023 KI Award winners were selected by the following panel of independent judges: Dan Bendall of FoodStrategy, Lenny Condenzio of Ricca Design Studios, Dick Eisenbarth of Cini-Little International, and Foster Frable of Clevenger, Frable and Lavalee.

Each of these products will be on during the National Restaurant Association Show, which will take place May 20-23 in Chicago’s McCormick Place.