The National Restaurant Association is now seeking applications from foodservice equipment manufacturers for its 2012 Kitchen Innovations Awards.

Selected by an independent panel of experts, award recipients represent some of the most groundbreaking equipment on the market that will cut costs and improve productivity and food quality in restaurant operations. They will be featured in the Kitchen Innovations Pavilion at the 2012 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show, May 5-8 at Chicago's McCormick Place.

"Our previous Kitchen Innovations Award recipients have gained recognition as industry-leading manufacturers of foodservice equipment that significantly helps restaurant operator profitability and efficiency, so we are excited to see this year's award submissions," said David Gilbert, chief operating officer of the NRA. "Product innovation is an important driver toward restaurant sales growth and cost management. By identifying back-of-the-house equipment that is truly cutting edge, we hope to help the nation's nearly 1 million restaurants grow and succeed."

Previous winners have included the Coca-Cola Freestyle fountain dispenser, Henny Penny Corp.'s iControl for Evolution Elite and Frymaster, Manitowoc Foodservice's Gas Protector.

All applications are judged by an independent, expert panel of industry leaders. New this year to the judging panel is Jim Krueger, Jr., chief F&B research and development, headquarters of the Air Force Services Agency HQ AFSVA.

Krueger will be joining other panelists including Dan Bendall (principal, FoodStrategy Inc.), Martin Cowley (senior manager design and standards, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts), William Eaton (chairman of the board, Cini-Little International), Robert Forrester (principal, Restaurant Industry Solutions), Foster F. Frable Jr. (founding partner, Clevenger Frable LaVallee), Aaron LaMotte (director, Sodexo Performance Interiors), Robert Marshall (vice president, U.S. operations, McDonald's Corporation), and Kathleen H. Seelye (managing partner, Ricca Newmark Design).

The deadline to apply for the 2012 Kitchen Innovations Awards is Dec. 21. Award recipients will be announced in February. Companies interested in applying or receiving more information should visit www.restaurant.org/show, or call Eric Rude at 312-853-2525.

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