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Kitchen Display Systems: 5 Frequently Asked Questions


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Kitchen Display Systems (KDS) are becoming more and more popular in the restaurant industry. They allow restaurants to manage their inventory and orders in a more efficient manner. A kitchen display system is a screen or set of screens set up at different stations in the kitchen or food prep area. These displays show all the information that the chef or kitchen staff needs to know about an order. In this article, we will discuss 5 frequently asked questions about kitchen display systems.

How Do Kitchen Display Systems Work?

A kitchen display system receives order data directly from the point of sale or online ordering platform. This happens one of two ways - either through an API or through local network communication. What does that really mean? API stands for "application programming interface" which is a fancy term that basically means there is a standard way for two software systems to communicate to each other through the internet. In the case of kitchen display systems, they can receive order data from the point of sale system's API and display it on the KDS screens. Local network communication means the KDS can receive POS data without going through the internet, much like kitchen printers do. The details of how this communication works depends on the KDS and the POS, but it will usually be either through your WiFi router or via Bluetooth. The main thing to know about the local network communication method is that it doesn't require internet to function.

Once the KDS has the order data it can do things like route items to the correct stations, track the time the ticket has been open, communicate the ticket status to customers via SMS, and sync item bumps between stations. All the data recorded from the KDS screens is stored in the cloud for analysis and reporting, which will allow you to evaluate your kitchen's performance and make improvements over time.

What Are The Benefits Of KDS?

There are a ton of benefits that come with implementing a KDS in your restaurant, including:

  • Increased efficiency. Kitchens display systems are designed to help the kitchen prepare orders faster and more efficiently, which allows you to fill more orders without the need to increase staffing levels.
  • Improved communication. Paper tickets are one way communication - you send the ticket and that's it. A digital KDS can receive order updates from the POS, and it can send order status updates back to the POS or directly to customers. The ability to KDS screens to communicate with each other helps workers at different stations orchestrate the ticket so every item is real at the exact same time.
  • Real-time tracking. What gets measured gets done. With paper tickets it's a manual process to track ticket time during a shift, and you have no historical record of your performance. With a KDS color-coded headers can show employees exactly where they stand on each ticket relative to your restaurant's speed of service standards. This, combined with alerts and speed of service reporting can help your kitchen improve over time.

What Does a KDS Cost?

The cost of a new kitchen display system can vary widely depending on the system you choose. There are typically two costs associated with a KDS: the software cost and the hardware cost.

KDS software is either charged as a one time license or as an on-going subscription model. A one time license can cost several hundred dollars per screen, and while it allows you to use the software as long as you'd like it also doesn't come with regular updates or improvements. KDS software subscriptions can start at low as $10-$15 per month and increase based on number of screens and features. Subscription models provide you access to regular updates and new functionality.

KDS hardware options depend on the provider you choose, and as a result there is a lot of variation in cost. You'll want to evaluate if the KDS provider also sells hardware or if you're able to bring your own device. You'll also need to evaluate that operating system the KDS software requires - for example, Windows, iOS, or Android. The size of the screens will also impact the cost. If your kitchen set up lends itself to smaller screens you could buy 10-inch tablets for a couple hundred dollars. If you need larger screens you can combine a KDS controller, monitor, and bump bar to navigate the software. If you're switching to a different KDS, you can save money if the new provider can run on your existing equipment.

Is It Hard To Set Up a KDS?

How easy or difficult it is to set up a KDS depends on the provider, how complicated your kitchen workflow is, and how tech-savvy you are. Because all kitchen display systems involve an integration of some sort there is a little bit of complexity to most set ups - for example, getting the local network connection to work may involve setting a static IP on your tablet and making sure you router is configured to allow local traffic. Legacy kitchen display systems are usually complicated enough that they require on-site installation and support to get started. However, modern, cloud-based kitchen display systems are much easier for the average restaurant owner to set up and try for themselves. For example, Fresh KDS, a tablet-based system that works with multiple POS systems, is as easy to set up as a printer, and can be up and running in under 10 minutes.

How Do I Pick The Best KDS For My Business?

Here are some foolproof steps to picking the best KDS for your restaurant:

  1. Identify your kitchen workflow: Before choosing a KDS, you need to understand your kitchen's workflow. Analyze your kitchen's layout, how orders are taken, how they move through the kitchen, and how they are prepared.
  2. Determine your needs: Once you have analyzed your kitchen workflow, you can determine what type of KDS you need. Consider the number of stations you require, the number of screens, and the features you need, such as ticket timers, screen communication, and more.
  3. Evaluate compatibility: Ensure that the KDS you select is compatible with your point of sale (POS) system. It is critical to have a KDS that can communicate effectively with your POS to ensure smooth operations.
  4. Check the ease of use: Ensure that the KDS is easy to use for your kitchen staff. It should be easy to navigate, understand and follow, so you don't waste time training your employees.
  5. Consider the price: KDS systems can vary in price, so you must consider the price when choosing the right one for your restaurant. Ensure that the system you choose provides good value for money.
  6. Look for support: Ensure that the KDS you choose comes with technical support, maintenance, and training.
  7. Get feedback: Finally, it would be best to seek feedback from other restaurant owners or industry professionals who have implemented KDS in their kitchen. Their input can help you choose the right KDS for your restaurant.

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