February 22, 2024

2021 Kitchen Innovations® Awards

TheNational Restaurant Association Show, the premier event and resource to learn about foodservice technology innovations, unique ingredients, and emerging trends in the restaurant industry, announced the recipients of the 2021 Kitchen Innovations (KI) Awards on 16 March 2021. The honorees are recognized as the year’s most forward-thinking and cutting-edge innovations that have meaningfully improved foodservice operations.

The National Restaurant Association Show, Hotel-Motel Show is owned and operated by a business-to-business information, event and market intelligence company, Winsight LLC in equity partnership with the National Restaurant Association. “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 KI Awards program has earned a reputation for defining the gold standard of foodservice equipment innovations. These 16 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.

The KI Awards program has earned a reputation for defining the gold standard of foodservice equipment innovations. These 16 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.

The 2021 Kitchen Innovations Award recipients are:


Touchless Sauce Dispenser

The Touchless Sauce Dispenser by 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.


Curtis GemX® Narrow IntelliFresh® Coffee Brewer with FreshTrac®

The new Curtis GemX Narrow is a powerful machine for superb coffee and beverage specialties. At 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.

Eastern Tabletop


Unlike UV sanitizing systems that carry risks with overexposure, 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 work stations and buffet systems, or in pendant and overhead fixtures for larger areas.


Cockroach Multi-Station

The 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 to traditional glue boards.

Eloma, An Ali Group Company

Compact Pro

Finally a fully modular combi to fit your kitchen’s flow: 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 autoclean®PRO. Plus, a design module featuring a variety of options and accessories.

Frymaster / Welbilt Brand

Frymaster FilterQuick® 120

Created for the unique challenges of cooking high volumes of fresh-breaded, heavy sediment, bone-in chicken products, this 120-lb. fryer 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. A lengthy list of features includes automatic direct internet connection, real-time data collection and remote diagnostics.

Hobart – FEG

AMTL Two Level Door Type Dish Machine with Hobart Smart Connect IOT App

The only two-level dish machine on the market, the AMTL features an upper chamber that acts as a typical door style dish machine, with a 17’’ 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.


Hoshizaki 2by2 ice cube machine, IM-50BAA-LM

With the premium-cocktail solid-ice market going crazy, the 2×2 undercounter model is the first ice machine in the North American market to make an ice cube this large: Measuring 1.9″ x 1.9″ x 2.2″ 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.

Manitowoc / Welbilt Brand

CrystalCraft Premier™

Large ice used to require large, bulky machines. Manitowoc’s CrystalCraft Premier™ 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.

Minipack America


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 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.


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.

Sunshine Innovations


The unique, 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 produces high volumes with adjustable portions and endless recipes, without any human intervention. Luccy is sized to fit in any kitchen or display, is easy and inexpensive to maintain, allowing to offer America’s number one dip to anyone, anywhere.

T&S Brass and Bronze Works

T&S 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 “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


Picture three independent ovens—say 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.



Think of the food safety and labor savings: This patented MULTI.Day Hot Vacuum system 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.

The KI Award recipients are selected by an independent panel of judges comprised of industry leaders and internationally-recognized food facility consultants, multi-unit executives, and design experts. The 2021 Kitchen Innovations judges are:

  • Dan Bendall (Principal, FoodStrategy, Inc.)
  • David Chislett, FCSI (Executive Principal, Ricca Design Studios)
  • Richard Eisenbarth, FCSI (President, Emeritus, Cini-Little International)
  • Foster F. Frable, Jr., FCSI, Associate AIA (Founding Partner, Clevenger Frable LaVallee)
  • Randy Homer (Program Manager – Food & Beverage Experience Development, Disneyland Resort)
  • Frank Inoa (Senior Director, Design & Engineering, Arby’s/Inspire Brands)
  • Jim Krueger, Jr., CMCE, NRAMF (Chief, Air Force Food & Beverage Policy, Procedures, Business Development & Strategic Initiatives, Air Force Services Center (AFSVA))
  • Steve Otto (Director, Capital Equipment Purchasing, Darden)
  • Jim Thorpe (Senior Food Service Designer, Aramark)

As the global restaurant and hospitality industry’s premier trade show, the National Restaurant Association Show brings together more restaurant and hospitality buyers and equipment manufacturers than any other industry event. Organizers have also developed an extensive collection of resources available to the foodservice community free of charge. A variety of recorded content focused on the state of the industry and future projections, consumer trends, operational innovations and more is available online, and new assets will be made available throughout the year.

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