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April 2, 2024

A Guide to Kitchen Display Systems for Square


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POS Used

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Are you using Square to process orders for your food & beverage operation? Square's point of sale (POS) system has surged in popularity among businesses of all sizes. This easy payment processing solution revolutionizes the way transactions are conducted and managed for restaurants, food trucks, coffee shops, and more. Its user-friendly interface, robust features, and seamless integration capabilities have made it a go-to POS choice for countless merchants seeking to simplify payment processing and provide digital checkout options. 

And, while Square POS excels in front-of-house order processing and payment handling, choosing the right kitchen display system (KDS) is equally crucial for optimizing back-of-house operations. While Square does offer its own KDS, you may wonder if there is a better order display solution out there that seamlessly integrates with Square POS and offers more features and flexibility.

In this guide on Square KDS solutions, we'll delve into how you can choose the best kitchen display system to complement your Square POS setup. Browse popular KDS options to find the kitchen display system that maximizes productivity, scales with your business, and helps you deliver exceptional customer experiences with every fulfilled order.

What is a kitchen display system for Square?

A kitchen display system (KDS) for Square is a device or set of screens that pair seamlessly with your Square POS. This system receives orders from your Square POS and instantly displays them on the screens mounted in your kitchen or food prep stations. A KDS for Square can replace paper ticket printers, handwritten orders, or verbally calling items that need to be prepared. A kitchen display system can help your restaurant, food truck, or coffee shop prepare orders faster and more accurately.

What devices work with Square?

The Square KDS system was originally developed to only work with Apple iPads. Square KDS is switching to Android in 2024 and will no longer support iOS devices. If you want to have more flexibility to choose Android or iPad, you can use another KDS solution for Square, like Fresh KDS. 

What are the main benefits of a KDS for Square?

Kitchen display systems are more than just digital printers. Modern kitchen display systems improve the overall efficiency of your food production by placing a host of valuable features at your fingertips. You don’t need a KDS to use your Square POS for orders, but a digital display system streamlines kitchen operations and standardizes your ticketing process. 

Some of the benefits of a Square-compatible KDS include:

Improved Speed of Service

Slow service (or inaccurate pickup times) is one of the top complaints from unhappy customers.  Staying organized helps your kitchen focus on preparing orders, and as a result you’ll be able to deliver orders faster. Color coded headers that change from green to yellow to red the longer tickets are open provide a visual indication of how well the kitchen is performing and if any orders are falling behind. This information can help you get ahead of any problems and stop them in their tracks.

Plus, your KDS can send alerts to customers, letting them know when orders are progressing or ready to be picked up. The automatic SMS text alerts for carryout help your customers pick up their orders at the point where food is at the optimal freshness and temperature.

Reduced Clutter and Chaos

Paper tickets can easily end up on the ground or in the BBQ sauce if you’re not careful. It’s easy for paper tickets to get mixed up on the rail so you’re not making the right order next. And when you need to recall an order? Hopefully the ticket is on the spindle and not in the trash. A KDS helps solve all these problems by keeping each order processed through your Square POS organized on an easy-to-navigate tablet display.

The right KDS for your Square POS can also help you cut through the clutter of daily operations with key performance insights. Use KDS analytics to review order times and get a clear picture of where things are getting held up or how often customers had to wait beyond the expected time for their type of order. 

Increased Productivity

When your kitchen is more productive it means you can fulfill more orders in the same amount of time. This increases throughput and leads to higher revenue and happier guests. The other advantage of increased productivity is you can help a smaller team of employees stay organized and clear on the kitchen flow — which is critical given how difficult staffing is in hospitality these days. A KDS can help you continue to serve your customers well and reduce employee turnover with a less chaotic environment.

Device Flexibility

The KDS Square offers only works on Android devices (starting June of 2024). The switch makes it difficult for businesses to use the device of choice — especially if they are already using iPads or other iOS devices to display orders in their kitchens. Choosing an external KDS for Square can enable you to have more flexibility in your hardware selection and screen layout.

Thinking about making the move from Square KDS?

Fresh KDS provides a step-by-step process and integrates to your Square POS.

What to look for when choosing a KDS for Square

There are several things to consider when searching for the best kitchen display system for Square point of sale.

  • Compatibility. You’ll want to make sure you choose a KDS that works with your existing tech stack, which means it will need to integrate with Square or Square for Restaurants. Look for a KDS that integrates easily to minimize your setup time and effort.
  • Hardware. Check to see what type of hardware each KDS provider supports. Some KDS solutions sell you both hardware and software while others use a “bring your own device” model. Bringing your own hardware gives you more flexibility and options, but make sure to check what operating systems are supported (iOS, Android, Windows).
  • Features. Does the kitchen display system offer the features that match your restaurant’s unique set up? Will you be able to cross off individual items, sync order bumps between stations, or send orders to the next station in the assembly line? Do you want the ability to communicate order status updates to your customers or the ability to print sticky labels for to-go cups or boxes?
  • Cost. There are two main costs to consider when evaluating kitchen display systems - the hardware cost and the software cost. Some KDS providers charge a one-time hardware plus software licensing fee, which typically does not include software updates. Other KDS companies only charge a monthly or annual fee for software while allowing you to bring your own hardware. This type of software typically will include ongoing updates for new features and functionality.
  • Support. How much support you’ll need to set up and maintain your new KDS depends on how easy the system is to use and how tech-savvy you are. If the system you choose looks complicated to set up, or if you don’t have much IT experience you might want to opt for a product that is built to be easy to use by anyone, not just IT teams.
  • Offline Mode. Many kitchen display systems require internet connectivity to receive orders. If your restaurant doesn’t have a reliable, strong internet connection you should consider a KDS that can operate “offline.” Kitchen display systems with offline mode receive orders across the local network and therefore can work even without a connection to the internet.

Kitchen Display Systems for Square

There are a number of options when it comes to choosing a KDS that works with your Square or Square of Restaurants POS.

Fresh KDS

Fresh KDS is a great choice if you are looking for a robust kitchen display system for Square that you can customize to match your kitchen’s workflow. It’s also built for restaurant operators, not IT teams, so it’s intuitive to use and easy to set up.

Fresh KDS has two options for connecting to Square: either through the cloud-based API or by emulating a printer. The advantage of using the printer emulation method is that Fresh KDS will continue to function even if your internet goes out. Fresh aggregates orders from Square POS, online POS, and other third-party platforms. 

The Fresh KDS app is available on both iOS and Android, providing you with a lot of flexibility in choosing your hardware. Fresh KDS also has some of the most advanced features on the market, including multiple options for communicating between stations, the ability to send order status updates directly to customers, and curbside “I’m Here” functionality. If you don’t need all the bells and whistles, Fresh KDS also offers a very affordable entry level plan.

  • Bring your own hardware
  • iOS and Android
Offline Mode
  • Yes

Square KDS

Square’s native kitchen display system is often the automatic choice for Square users. Like Fresh, the Square KDS pulls together orders from multiple sources, including the point of sale app, Square online, and other third-party platforms. Separate expeditor and prep modes create different views for each station type.

Square KDS isn’t as robust as a solution like Fresh (scroll down to see a detailed comparison list) and is priced comparably. Also, starting in 2024, the Square KDS system will no longer support iOS and will only be available on Android devices.

  • $20/screen/month
  • Unlimited free KDS screens included in the Square for Restaurants Plus plan
  • Hardware purchased through Square
  • Android only
Offline Mode
  • No

Flash Order

In addition to a KDS, Flash Order builds software for self-ordering kiosks, drive thru management, and web/mobile app orders. Flash Order’s KDS only works on iOS . However, since the KDS is not the sole focus of the business it lacks some of the advanced features found in other kitchen display systems.

  • $20/month for unlimited screens
  • Included in monthly cost if using kiosks or drive thru management
  • Bring your own hardware
  • iOS only
Offline Mode
  • No

Why Choose Fresh KDS for Square?

Fresh makes Square KDS setup easy with a step-by-step guide to help you connect your Fresh KDS to your Square POS. With Fresh, you can set up an Order Tracker for a customer facing order status screen, manually hold orders, use a bump bar, set up a dedicated take-out management screen, and more.

Curious about what else you can do with Fresh KDS for Square?  Here is a clear list comparing Fresh KDS and Square KDS features:

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Fresh specializes in software designed to support your kitchen staff and help you delight your customers. Get started with Fresh KDS for Square to experience the difference for yourself.

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