The National Restaurant Association announced the winners of the 2023 Kitchen Innovations (KI) Awards on Thursday.
These 20 recipients are recognized for the year’s most forward-thinking and cutting-edge kitchen equipment and products designed to improve operations in restaurants and other foodservice venues.
Many of the 2023 awardees address the industry’s most pressing challenges, including labor shortages and skill levels, speed of service, space constraints and rising costs. Tech advancements are in full evidence and accelerating, with AI and robots well represented. Here’s a snapshot of the winners:
Also known as Aniai aGrill, this cooking robot follows a burger recipe and cleans itself, grilling up to eight patties in less than a minute—no flipping required.
Intelligent French Fry Robotic Solution
Atosa’s new system provides a “co-bot” solution that includes a French fry dispenser, robotic arm, fryer battery with filtration, ventless hood and dump station.
Costa Smart Cafe Marlow 1.2
Automation is advancing, and this autonomous coffee brewer from the Coca-Cola Company needs no human assistance to provide 100 hot and iced barista-quality coffee drinks before refilling.
AI powers this fully automated combi oven from Convotherm, recognizing the food as it’s loaded and launching the correct cooking program.
Hobart-ITW Equipment Group debuted this two-level undercounter rack design—a dish machine that reduces water, energy, labor and cleaning time.
Taylor Hydra Rinse with Configurable Pro Controller
Different models of soft-serve/shake machines can now be cleaned with this one system without disassembling the machine.
Immersion Systems Inc. creates water convection through an immersion system for rapid food thawing, washing of produce, seafood deglazing and general washing.
Hybrid Kold Pak Dual Temp Saute Station
Kwick Cool invented a solution for saute stations to hold temperatures below 40 F without freezing the bottom of the pan; chilled, sealed glycerin pouches insulate the rails against heat migration.
A seven-axis robotic arm allows this robot from Lab2Fab to fry two separate frozen foods, up to 30 pounds each, at the same time and in the same workspace as a human employee.
Merrychef conneX with Automated Panini Press
This 16-inch-square oven cavity with unattached panini press allows both batch and on-demand cooking with greater efficiency and ease.
PathSpot Technologies created a digitized safety inspection system networked with the company’s HandScanner technology that detects microbial contamination.
This AI kitchen management system uses machine learning to oversee kitchen operations and provide crew assistance based on demand predictions.
SmartVide XL and 30-gallon Precision Rethermalizer Tank
With its large rethermalizer tank, SAMMIC’s sous vide equipment allows operators to prepare hundreds of portions at once with the same precision as a typical countertop sous vide model.
Elevate Autonomous Retail Merchandiser
Structural Concepts equipped its refrigerated display case with a cashierless transactional system for an autonomous shopping solution.
T&S Brass and Bronze Works designed the UltraRinse spray nozzle to cover a maximum surface area, specifically for rinsing produce and thawing proteins.
This TurboChef oven features two full-sized cavities—one designed for impingement and one rapid cooking—in a 26.8-inch footprint.
This combi oven from UNOX Inc. pairs cooking speed with an auto-wash capability, offering more versatility in a space-saving design.
SerVue—Touchless Refrigerated Slide-In
For this new-age salad bar, Vollrath’s enclosed, high-capacity canisters are inserted into a refrigerated chamber to keep food covered and safe; sensors automate dispensing and promote portion control.
The Ellipse Blending System
Top-down blending is showcased in the Waring Ellipse Blending Solution, which also boasts shorter cycles, greater output and more consistency.
Robojo—Powered by MyAppCafe
This totally unattended coffee “theater” is built around two automatic espresso machines, an ice machine, two latte art printers, a refrigerator and a robotic arm. Customers pay via app or credit card.
The 2023 KI winners were chosen by an independent panel of judges made up of industry leaders, food facility consultants, chain executives and design experts.
“We are thrilled to recognize this year’s recipients of the 2023 Kitchen Innovations Award,” said Tom Cindric, president of Winsight Exhibitions, in a statement. “Each year, we see innovative products that revolutionize kitchen and foodservice operations, and this year is no different. These equipment advancements address many of the challenges impacting operations today—including workforce shortages and labor costs—and create a new generation of kitchens that improve operations and safety through increased efficiency, versatility and productivity to help boost the bottom line.”
Awardees will be on display in a dedicated showroom at Chicago’s McCormick Place during the National Restaurant Association Show from May 20-23, 2023.