Foodservice Equipment: Choosing the Best

Kitchen Innovations Awards winners promise labor, energy and water efficiencies
Vollrath Co. Stoelting AutoVend System

The Vollrath Co. Stoelting AutoVend System allows operators to offer soft-serve in a vending machine.

Every year, the National Restaurant Association (­NRA) announces the 25 recipients

of its Kitchen Innovations ­(KI) Awards, which honor groundbreaking equipment and technologies that have the capacity to vastly improve foodservice operations.

“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, president and CEO of White Castle System Inc. and NRA convention chair.

Many could easily find a home in a c-store kitchen:

  • Beverage-Air Versa-Cool: This portable walk-in cooler cools down to 38 degrees in minutes. When assembled, it sits 4 feet by 4 feet by 6 feet 6 inches, and it offers 105 cubic feet of storage.
  • Blodgett Hoodini: The Hoodini self-contained, ventless hood is available for the company’s Mini Combi 6 and 10 pan ovens. The system removes steam, smoke and fumes.
  • Follett Corp. Horizon 1010 and 1410 ice machines: These two models introduce fresh water on the ice-harvest end of the machine with frequent small-volume flushes that reduce scale buildup and produce pure ice without wasting water.


Average energy consumption in a restaurant that comes from food preparation, according to the National Restaurant Association

  • Franke Coffee Systems A600 Espresso Machine: This machine combines the company’s FoamMaster technology with a patented brew unit and a fully automated clean-in-place system.
  • Manitowoc Merrychef eikon e2s: According to the company, this small-footprint, high-speed convection/microwave offers best-in-class speed, heat-up and cool-down times, energy effciency, cleanability and cavity-to-footprint ratio.
  • Manitowoc Multiplex N2Fusion Beverage System: Nitrogenized coffee is a hot new trend for coffee enthusiasts. This product lets the user add nitrogen to a beverage at the point of dispense.
  • The Vollrath Co. Stoelting AutoVend System: Bringing frozen soft-serve to a vending-machine format, this machine dispenses two flavors and four toppings in multiple sizes, including one spoon per cup, within 30 seconds of selection.

The complete list of KI winners is available at