As a Kitchen Innovations™ (KI) Award judge since 2005 (when National Restaurant Association unveiled KI to the world), industry powerhouse Bill Eaton has helped pursue ground-breaking kitchen equipment to showcase at the NRA Show. As the head honcho at Cini-Little, a leading foodservice design consulting company, Eaton selected, along with the other independent KI expert panelists (these guys and gal have quite a following!), this year’s 18 Kitchen Innovation Award recipients for NRA Show® 2009.
We here at Floored! chatted with Eaton about what he and the group of KI judges look for when they’re in hot pursuit of ways to help improve your game.
Helping operators: As judges, our goal is to expose restaurateurs to new and better ways of operating. We look for things with broad appeal throughout the foodservice industry.
The hunt: We scout ideas all year long. Our judges have enormous contacts in the industry and access to information. They often identify innovations they’ve seen over the past year that manufacturers haven’t yet put forth.
Show stopper: The KI Pavilion should be operators’ first stop at the [NRA] Show. They [will] get some good information very quickly. It’s a distinct opportunity to explore equipment that can improve the way they do business. (Note: Check out the 2009 Restaurant Industry Forecast’s 10 tips to increase efficiency, cut energy costs, and conserve resources in 2009 section, the Forecast is prepared by the National Restaurant Association Research Department (the masters of knowledge).
Bang for your buck: We always look for ways to help operators reduce costs or improve their revenue stream. We like equipment that is easier to use than traditional models or does more than one task, such as one piece of equipment that replaces two pieces. Or something that takes up 10 square feet less – which is less space to heat, cool, clean, etc. Or requires just one employee to operate versus several.
Green scene: This year, we saw many innovations related to the environment and sustainability. Many of the applications had water- or energy-saving features. The companies recognize the importance of being good manufacturing citizens, and restaurants benefit from using those devices. Restaurants receive customer recognition for their environmentally friendly practices, and they might qualify for some tax benefits.
Wow, we’re impressed by how seriously these judges take this stuff. Goes to show that it’s true what they say, if it matters to the restaurant industry, it can be found at NRA Show 2009.
As told to L.B. by Bill Eaton