8 Things You Didn't Know Your Restaurant Needed

National Restaurant Association / May 22, 2016 

We scour the NRA Show for food, gadgets, gear and services to help you wow guests, ensure safety and operate efficiently. Check out what's new and cool this year.​

Choco kebabs
What's more tempting than a giant slab of chocolate? How about giant chunks of almond and hazelnut chocolate rotating in a refrigerated machine like a Nutella-flavored dessert gyro? At least two exhibitors shaved slivers of chocolate from rotating, gyro-style cylinders and served them over warm crepe-liked pancakes or "Choco Pita." The crepes can be filled with ice cream, whipped cream, fruit and other toppings, says Mariano Vanoli, director, Italian Chocolate Twister. Who's interested? Bakeries, cafes, ice cream stores and kiosk/food truck operators. Sagra Inc., which makes chocolate fountains and fountain chocolate offered a variety of flavors for its ChocoSwirl chocolate shaver, including spearmint, peppermint and cinnamon combined with chocolate.

Sorghum solutions

Add sorghum to the list of old-fashioned ingredients making a comeback. The United Sorghum Checkoff showed off the ancient grain's flexibility in various forms: pearls, puffs and pillows; flour, whole grain and bran; and syrup. It blends in well with other whole grains, ancient grains and marinades, says Doug Bice, market development director. "When you look around the show floor, I could fit it with so many products," he says. The gluten-free grain is a good source of protein and fiber. "It fits all those things folks are looking for."

Edible bugs

Crickets ground into flour for tortilla chips are probably the only way you want to see bugs in your restaurant. But Ed Gunther sees them as a fun way to get operators to think about pest control. The national accounts rep for Terminix used them as a hook to get people to talk about how to protect their brands and minimize risk. What's top of mind right now? The Zika virus. "It's a major, scary topic" that Terminix is battling with a new, safe, organic mosquito-control program. The long-time exhibitor also was talking up its rapid-freeze bed bug program.

Fryer guards

Pock-marked-size burns from oil splashes no longer have to be a rite of passage for cooks and chefs. FryerGate/Dagda Technologies offers an oil guard that hooks on to fryer baskets to prevent hot oil from splashing your staff and floors. CEO Rory Millikin previously received our Kitchen Innovations award for FryerGate, a cover for deep fryers, as well as SpinFresh, which combines a salad spinner and deep fryer to reduce grease (and calories) from fried food.

Ramen for grown-ups

You might remember five-for-$1 instant noodle packets from your college days. But fresh ramen is taking off everywhere – from university foodservice to ramen shops in Chicago, Las Angeles and even Nebraska, says Mike Gerber, national accounts manager, Ariake USA. The Harrisonburg, Va.-based company is known for bone-stock concentrates from turkey, beef, chicken and pork, but its big seller for foodservice is ramen soup and fresh noodles. Four types of ramen concentrate are available: vegetarian, miso, pork and chicken.

Living condiments

For years, many chefs used microgreens for garnish, but Koppert Cress USA is trying to change that. The Cutchoque, N.Y.-based company is promoting its ancient, heirloom varieties as living condiments with intense flavors. We tasted butterfly leaves, a type of clover from South America that tastes like Granny Smith apples and oyster leaves, a plant from northern Europe that looks like a succulent and tastes like, well, oysters. Our favorites? An ancient variety of wasabi and Sichuan buttons, which release a mix of sweetness and heats in a tingling, Pop Rocks-like sensation. "It's not in the sense that you want to cry or it makes you sweat," says general manager Nicolas Mazar.

New-fangled footwear

Glendale, Wis.-based Bogs Footwear was a farm and ag supplier 13 years ago, but eventually expanded into the lifestyle and foodservice markets. It specializes in slip-resistant, hand-made, hand-finished boots. It recently introduced restaurant shoes with soles made from Rebound, a special blown rubber similar to products used in sneakers. The difference? Rebound bounces back. The new restaurant line also features a stiffening board and wicking material in the sole "so you stay comfortable and waterproof," says regional rep Joe File.

More bacon

There's no such thing as too much bacon, at least according to Andrew Ripkin of Chicago-based Big Fork Foods. "We cram as much bacon as we can into all of our sausages," including eight flavors, fully cooked or raw. The wurst are preservative-free, hormone-free and gluten-free.​


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