A Kitchen Display System (KDS) is a technology that enables restaurants to manage orders more efficiently. KDS systems are typically composed of one or more screens that are placed in the kitchen or food prep area, allowing cooks and other staff to see real-time updates on what needs to be prepared.
A KDS works by receiving order data from the point of sale or online ordering platform. Online orders can either be routed directly to the kitchen screens or funneled through the POS. How the KDS gets the order data depends on the provider, but there are two common methods. The first is through an API, which requires the restaurant to have internet for the KDS to work. The second is using the local network similar to a printer. This method allow the KDS to function even if the internet goes out.
Once orders are displayed on the KDS screens employees can interact with them: changing the ticket position based on what's due next, placing future orders on hold until later, and marking which items have been prepared. When the whole order is ready, the kitchen clears or "bumps" the order card from the screen. This action also stores data about the ticket, including how long it was open, for reporting purposes.
Kitchen display systems must get the order data from somewhere - either the POS or online ordering sources. To do this the KDS must have an integration to the ordering system. When selecting a KDS, you need to choose one that has an integration to your POS.
The cost of a Kitchen Display System will vary depending on the specific needs of your business. The cost of a KDS will include both hardware costs and the software license. Some KDS providers, like Fresh KDS, allow you to bring your own hardware. This means you can shop for the tablets and screens that are right for your restaurant. Other kitchen display systems require you to buy their hardware, which can be more expensive. The software licensing cost can either be a one-time cost bundled with the hardware or software-as-a-service subscription. The advantage of a subscription model is that the KDS product is getting frequent updates an improvements at no additional cost to you. Including both hardware and software costs, expect to spend anywhere from several hundreds to several thousands of dollars on a new kitchen system.
A first-party KDS is a system built by the point of sale provider. It will only work with that POS. An example of a first-party KDS is Square KDS. A third-party KDS is a system that integrates with multiple different POS systems. QSRA, Fresh KDS, and ChefTab are examples of third-party kitchen display systems. Typically a third-party KDS has more features and functionality since kitchen display systems are the company's sole focus. Another advantage of buying a third-party KDS is that if you switch POS systems in the future you may be able to keep your KDS, which means you will not have to retrain your kitchen on a new product.
Adding a KDS to your kitchen can help you improve your speed of service, prepare orders more accurately and efficiently, and reduce waste (both paper waste and food waste). This can all translate into greater customer satisfaction and lower costs. For more information on the benefits of a KDS, check out our blog post on the topic.