National Restaurant Association Show 2019 Recap: Top Innovations from the 100th Show

/ Foodservice Tips, Restaurant Tips / May 22

National Restaurant Association Show 2019

Did you miss the action at the 2019 National Restaurant Association Show? Don’t worry! We walked the entire show floor, looking for the best equipment, technology, foods, drinks and more. Here are some of the greatest innovations and observations from the 100th anniversary show.

Commercial Kitchen Equipment 

PrecisionBrew Air-Heated Shuttle Brewer

 2019 Kitchen Innovations Award Recipient

Grindmaster-Cecilware has released yet another gem in their line of coffee equipment. The PrecisionBrew Air-Heated Shuttle Brewer has shuttles designed to maintain temperature and flavor. So how does it achieve this? Each shuttle is heated by recirculating hot air. Traditional machines use electric coils, which can cause hot spots and scorching of your brew. This model also is equipped with Java-tate™ technology that stirs coffee at regular short intervals to keep the brew seamlessly blended.

Ventura Flex Tortilla Machine

2019 Kitchen Innovations Award Recipient

Whether you’re cutting or removing them, prepping tortillas can be tricky and time consuming. Well, until now. The Ventura Flex, which was released in 2018, is the first ever electric tabletop tortilla maker. Despite its small footprint, the machine makes up to 840 corn tortillas per hour and has multiple setting to adjust thickness and sizes. It also can be purchased with a TMSA-100 Spin Table, giving you easy access and use in the kitchen.

Indigo NXT 

Manitowoc Ice-Indigo NXT Commercial Ice Machine

   Manitowoc Ice Indigo NXT Machine

 2019 Kitchen Innovations Award Recipient

Manitowoc Ice showcased their new Indigo NXT ice machine. Combining efficient rotary compressors and environmentally friendly R410a refrigerant, this machine makes ice in a way that has never been used before in the U.S. The machine also produces roughly 50 pounds more ice daily and is 11 percent more efficient on average than models using R404a refrigerant. Another massive benefit of the Indigo NXT is the new touchscreen display, which features easy-to-use controls, a helpful startup wizard and one-touch access to model and serial numbers.

Visual Holding Cabinet w/ Tray Tracking Technology

2019 Kitchen Innovations Award Recipient

Merco’s latest holding cabinet might look ordinary, but looks can be deceiving. Its Tray Tracking Technology features a timer that automatically starts and counts down when you insert a tray. What really takes this technology to the next level is when you move the tray. If you ever move a tray, the timer electronically stays with it, tracking to the new location and continuing the countdown.

CVap® Technology

Winston Foodservice showcased their new CVap line, which was released in April. These pieces of equipment use controlled vapor technology that combines heat and moisture for more accurate cooking and holding. Each unit offers incredible versatility, so you can bake, braise, roast, poach or low-steam with ease. They also are equipped with sous vide modes for extra precision, no matter how soft or crispy you want your food to be.


 2019 Kitchen Innovations Award Recipient

 Henny Penny has been a top equipment manufacturer since the 1950s and continues to innovate in the world of fryers. Its latest innovation, the FlexFry, was prominently on display at the NRA show. This fully loaded fryer has the benefits of open and pressure frying in one battery footprint. The unit also is equipped with an abundance of features, including Henny Penny’s F-5 electric low oil volume platform with an auto top-off function, an easy-to-use touchscreen interface and a three-minute express filtration.

Henny Penny SpaceSaver Team Combi Oven

  Henny Penny $paceSaver Team Combi

Space$aver Team Combi

 2019 Kitchen Innovations Award Recipient

In addition to the FlexFry, Henny Penny also showcased its new Space$aver Team Combi. This 22-inch, single-frame unit combines two-stacked combi ovens that operate independently from one another, helping save space in your kitchen’s floorplan. All the controls are conveniently at eye level, and 75 percent of the service parts can be accessed conveniently from the front of the unit, meaning there is no need to pull it out for maintenance. It also features an integrated ventless hood with four-stage filtration that easily traps grease and fumes without a catalytic converter.

ESM-600 Egg Station Mini

The Egg Station has been a game-changer for many restaurants nationwide. Antunes’ new Egg Station Mini has a smaller design, allowing you to maximize your kitchen’s footprint while quickly serving fresh, made-to-order eggs. The machine uses a combination of heat from steam and the grilling surface that makes moist eggs with both speed and incredible precision. It also comes with a rack and cover kit that allows you to prep everything from one 8-inch omelet to six 3-inch eggs.


Last year, Antunes launched the GST-1H conveyor toaster, which is designed to heat tortillas, flatbreads and tortillas in seconds. At the show, they featured a smaller version of the machine, the GSTT-1H. This space-saving model is set for release soon and boasts a 7-8 second toasting time. The toaster is ideal for heating small tortillas, allowing you to cook up breakfast burritos, al pastor dishes and much more without delay.

Jet Steamer JS-1000

2019 Kitchen Innovations Award Recipient

Antunes Jet Steamer JS-1000

           Antunes Jet Steamer JS-1000

This award-winner drew a lot of “oohs and ahhs” at this year’s show. As shown during countless demos throughout the event, a chef can whip up two scrambled eggs in 10 seconds on the JS-1000. It also can make individual soap, chili and oatmeal servings in 15 seconds. So how does the steamer cook so quickly?  It injects high-velocity steam into a closed pitcher, using controlled bursts that speeds up cook times.

Speed S +Plus

Zumex brought several machines to the show this year, but the Speed S +Plus was prominently on display. What makes this juicer so impressive is that it can juice up to 40 pieces of fruit per minute, making it an ideal choice for grocery stores, cafes and hotels that require lots of freshly squeezed juice. The machine’s new 1Step Extraction Kit comes in multiple sizes to juice everything from large oranges to small limes, and it’s easy to clean and maintain, helping eliminate downtime throughout the day.

RPO3 Trio Pizza Oven

Middleby showcased a wide variety of their equipment at their booth, which was divided into different foodservice sections including a bakery, bar and store. The new Doyon RPO3 Trio Pizza Oven was prominently featured in the bakery test kitchen. This model uses ventless convection cooking to bake up to three pizzas in five minutes. It also features a rotating deck, helping evenly bake everything from the cheese to the crust to absolute perfection.

CA6X Circle Air Oven

The new CA6X oven was unveiled earlier this year and on full display during the show. Equipped with new easy-to-use controls, the unit uses Jet Air technology that has variable air speeds and shot-and-pulse steam injection. Combined with a rotating rack system, you’re assured crisp, uniform baking every time.

PUC Self-Serve Automated Cabinets

Released earlier this year, Carter-Hoffmann’s new Pick Up Cabinet (PUC) integrates into a restaurant’s mobile ordering and POS systems, making service quicker and pick-up easy. When a customer orders from an app or a website, the restaurant receives the order. After being prepped and cooked, the food is stored in the PUC unit to stay warm and fresh. The customer then receives a text notification with a personalized QR code, allowing them to scan the code when they arrive and pick up the food directly from the unit.

Carter-Hoffmann GardenChef Growing Cabinet

      Carter-Hoffmann GardenChef

GardenChef Growing Cabinet

The new GardenChef is designed for restaurants, stores and other foodservice establishments who want to grow fresh herbs and microgreens. Available in single-door, two-door and undercounter units, the cabinet acts as a self-contained ecosystem that lets you program everything from lighting to watering all from an easy-to-operate touchscreen. By growing your own greens, you can save up to 80 percent over buying them.

Versatile Chef Station

2019 Kitchen Innovations Award Recipient

Vulcan’s latest innovation, the Versatile Chef Station, was featured at the show. Designed mainly for hospitality and small restaurant kitchens, the space-saving unit is ideal for making a wide variety of small plates. Just how versatile is this station? It operates as an all-in-one pasta cooker, steamer, fryer, griddle, braising pan, saucepan and rethermalizer. Pretty good for a unit with such a small footprint.

Modular Induction Dry Well Drop-In

2019 Kitchen Innovations Award Recipient

Vollrath showcased their Modular Induction Dry Well, which was released in June 2018. The unit uses induction cooking in two independent zones in each of its three wells. Each zone has capsules that can be adjusted easily to accommodate 2.5-inch or 4-inch deep pans. You not only can house a full-size pam in one well, but you also can split the zone in each well to hold two half-size pans. The easy-to-operate digital controls let you change the temperature in well, whether you want both zones synced or at separate temps.

Companion Cart & Hydra Rinse System

The Stoelting Companion Cart is ideal for frozen yogurt or ice cream shops that house multiple machines. Available in three styles with various options, this portable cleaning system has an on-the-go sink that connects to your facility’s water supply. Upgraded models come with a pump and the new Hydra Rinse System that connects the unit to the front door of the treat machine. Available since February, the Hydra Rinse controls the entire cleaning and sanitizing procedure for you.


2019 Kitchen Innovations Award Recipient

The first of its kind, the SinkTech three-compartment smart sink automatically drains, cleans and fills. Designed for undercounter use mostly at bars and in the hospitality industry, the sink helps reduce time, water usage and energy over time. The technology also uses sensors to determine everything from water levels to temperature. Whenever there are changes to water usage and compliance, the unit stays up to speed thanks to its cloud connection.

Excalibur™ UDC Plug-N-Play Island Suite

Montague featured their new Excalibur ™ island suite at this year’s NRA Show. Made from stainless steel and built with multiple supply lines, this suite lives by its name of being plug-and-play. The unit allows you to easily reposition or update key equipment thanks to its modular utility distribution and configurable utility connections. The setup not only creates a team-friendly cooking station, but it also makes for an appealing front-of-house presentation.

Automatic Gyro Slicer

Korkmaz’s gyro slicer stopped a lot of visitors in their tracks. Why? It was operating without the help of a human. With an easy LCD screen, all you have to do is pick a setting and let the machine slice perfect pieces of gyro or shawarma.

Bear Robotics Penny Foodservice Robot

  Bear Robotics Penny Foodservice Robot

Foodservice Technology

Penny Foodservice Robot

2019 Kitchen Innovations Award Recipient

One of the most fascinating features at this year’s show was Penny, a foodservice robot that drives autonomously through artificial intelligence. This robot is able to move around tight corners and through crowds, and it tray shape suspension allows it to carry food to customers and bus dirty dishes and tableware with ease. The new Penny 2 features a slightly enhanced design and has a tablet that can take orders and communicate with customers.

Data Driven Cooking

2019 Kitchen Innovations Award Recipient

Having the right data makes running a kitchen easier and more efficient. UNOX’s Data Driven Cooking allows you to monitor everything from energy and water consumption to cooking times and oven usage. Once that data is tracked, artificial intelligence provides recommends for operational patterns, new recipe ideas and other helpful tips. With the UNOX.DDC app, you also can be connected to your UNOX oven right from your smartphone, allowing you to track operating status, analyze consumption reports and create recipes at your fingertips.

Hospitality Playbooks

Overseeing a hospitality staff can be challenging. Fortunately, the people at Restaurant Playbooks have developed a new system to make training and coaching your team as smooth as possible. Launched at this year’s show, Hospitality Playbooks have materials designed to better prepare staff and enhance customer service, hospitality experiences, guest loyalty and online reviews. The system features everything from online playbooks, checklists and quizzes to video tutorials, interactive courses and monthly webinars.

Voice and AI Drive-In Ordering

ZIVELO has created a wide variety of interactive ordering kiosks and menu boards. At the 2019 show, they unveiled a drive-in board prototype that takes customers through voice recognition and AI. The board would allow a customer to start ordering with a simple prompt, and the AI listens and tracks your order. It’s programmed to give recommendations and can customize an order, letting customers to easily hold everything from tomatoes to onion. The machine also would be able to remember previous orders based on a patron’s voice. ZIVELO is hoping to pilot with select Sonic locations by the end of the year before officially rolling out this new technology.

ZIVELO AI Drive-In Prototype

         ZIVELO AI Drive-In Prototype

Tableside Mobile POS

Upserve was on hand in the Tech Pavilion to showcase its latest Tableside Mobile POS. Don’t be fooled by its compact design. Its five-inch screen allows servers to send orders and take payments right from the palms of their hands. This innovative tool also can provide updated menu details in real time to your wait staff. That not only means faster service but also more sales and tips.


In addition to the Tableside Mobile POS, Upserve also featured its new Workforce platform at the show. This integrated labor-management suite lets owners and managers track labor costs and simplify communication with staff. The tool also is perfect for making, modifying and posting schedules that can be sent right to your staff via text or email.

Clover Dining Floor Plan App

Clover is continuing to create more flexible and simpler POS systems and platforms for restaurants. Launched in October 2018, the Clover Dining App lets you easily manage the tables and orders. Users can create and edit an entire floor plan, even by changing the shapes of each table and the number of seats. They also can keep tracks of tables being occupied and guests who have ordered.

Food & Beverages

Maple Chai & Spicy Guava Bacon

And you thought bacon couldn’t get any better? The folks at Bacon 1™, a Hormel brand, whipped up something delicious for guests at the show. They not only had samples of regular crispy bacon, but they also served glazed with maple chai and spicy guava. With sweet and spicy options, imagine the endless dishes or appetizers you can make with those.

New ICEE Drinks

From movies to casual summer days, ICEE frozen beverages have been a refreshing option for more than 60 years. One of the reasons they’ve stayed popular is by consistently adding more enjoyable flavors to their lineup. All of them were on display at the show, including their recently released mixed berry Mermaid ICEE and a new Fanta sour water melon, which is set to debut officially next year. Guests also were treated to their latest selection of frozen nitro cold brews.

Gluten-Free Dough

Gluten-free products have been on the rise for a while, but nothing has risen faster than the dough from Bravadough!. Their gluten-free dough allows you to enjoy traditional foods without sacrificing the taste. They shared a delicious selection of foods at this year’s show, including pizza, focaccia and vegan cookies.

JJ Snack-California Churros

                    California Churro

California Churros®

J&J Snack Foods are behind some of our favorite goodies, including the iconic SuperPretzel® Soft Pretzels and ICEE frozen beverages. This year, they debuted a brand-new California Churros® at their booth. So what sets these Spanish-style churros apart from the rest? They’re made with an authentic loop shape, making it crispier and simpler to eat.


JUST is a San Francisco food manufacturer that uses plant-based ingredients to make healthier, organic foods.  Their popular JUST egg was a popular attracted in the Organic & Natural Pavilion. A vegan protein made from mung beans, JUST eggs look and taste similar to real chicken eggs. This cholesterol-free, dairy-free and non-GMO product not only can be used for old-fashioned scrambled eggs, but it also can substitute eggs in many recipes like French toast, fried rice and quiche.

Plant-Based Sliders

While Impossible Foods was showcasing their plant-based burgers, there was a hidden gem at the Kronos booth. In addition to their popular gyros, Kronos featured new sliders that use a pea-based protein in lieu of ground beef. They’re not available for purchase yet. But if testing goes well, you could see this tasty alternative hit the market by the end of the year.

Donut Mixology

You probably thought mixology was only for beverages. The people at Weston Foods showed everyone at the 2019 NRA that it’s for donuts too. How does it work? When you pick your base and flavor combination, the folks behind the counter put donut holes in a bag, add the mixture of glaze and flavoring and shake it all up. The result: Delicious donuts. What’s even cooler is the selection of unique flavors, which includes pumpkin spice latte, Mayan hot chocolate and Thai peanut sauce.



Thermapen thermometers are designed to reduce downtime and maximize efficiency. Featuring standard prong and infrared probes, their latest models can capture precise temperature in two to three seconds. At the show, they featured their new Bluetooth thermometers, including RayTemp Blue, which can measure surface temperatures with a 5:1 distance-to-target ratio.

High-Heat Measuring Cups

Cambro unveiled their new high-heat measuring cups, which are scheduled to release this summer. Made from sturdy, lightweight materials that won’t shatter or crack, the cups are designed to heat, hold and pour hot liquids or ingredients at temperature ranging from -40 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fibrox® Pro Dual Grip Knives

           Fibrox® Pro Dual Grip Knives

Fibrox® Pro Dual Grip Knives

Victorinox might be best known for Swiss Army knives, but they also make world-class cutlery. Featured at this year’s show was their new Fibrox® Pro Dual Grip Knives. These knives come with the same state-of-the-art blades as the Fibrox® Pro line but feature specially designed two-component, non-slip handles. The ergonomic design ensures comfortable and easy cutting, offering maximum support to lessen hand and wrist fatigue.

Intelligent Locker

Released more than a year ago, the Intelligent Locker from Winholt is gaining steam throughout the foodservice industry. This smart locker not only allows your staff to securely store their items away during shifts, but it also features a charging portals for electronics. That means your staff can charge their phones and avoid having them out during work hours. It also means you can charge other essential devices in a pinch, including order machines and tablets.

O2GO Containers

And you thought this show was just for restaurants? OZZI showcased the O2GO line, which are reusable, environmentally friendly containers used by various healthcare facilities and educational institutions nationwide. Each container is recyclable and designed for up to 300 uses. Whenever a customer orders a to-go meal and receives a container, they return it to a machine at the facility to be cleaned, sanitized and used again.

Compostable CaterWrap® & Cutlery

From takeout to catering, disposable silverware is always in high demand. Despite growing environmental concerns over the rise in plastic waste, there aren’t many alternatives. Fortunately, the folks at Hoffmaster recently developed new cutlery and wraps that are 100 percent compostable and made entirely from plant-based materials.

Ultra® SmartStock® Automated Napkin System

Napkins might not sound very interesting, but this automated napkin system caught the eyes of many passersby. Designed for self-serve areas, the machine has an auto-fill function that dispenses anywhere from one to five napkins per customer in about five seconds or less. This not only ensures the correct number of napkins per order, but it also helps reduce napkin waste by 30-40 percent.

GP PRO Automated Sealing Machine

   GP PRO Automated Sealing Machine

Automated Sealing Machine

GP PRO’s other gem at the show was the Automated Sealing Machine. Set to launch in the fourth quarter of 2019, the machine applies a sealed lid on the tip of a paper or plastic cup in about 2-3 seconds. The lid also has a perforated area, making it easy to insert a straw. This new sealing solution could be a game-changer in beverage dispensing, potentially replacing snap-on lids to cover your favorite fountain beverages.

Table Leg Stabilizers

Gone are the days of leveling a wobbly table with sugar packets or stacks of napkins. FLAT Tech continues to develop new ways to stabilize and align tables. FLAT Equalizers are universal feet that house stainless steel thread designed to fit almost any table’s legs. Once the thread compresses into the feet, the built-in hydraulic technology lets you adjust the table by simply lifting up or pressing down on the table top.

SpeedHeat™ Flameless Warming System

Ideal for catering or buffets, Sterno’s new heating system keeps food warm without using a flame. SpeedHeat™ uses a specially designed base, tray and packets that can keep food warm for up to 45 minutes. That means easier and safer set-up for you and your staff.

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