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March 15, 2024

Kitchen Display Systems: 5 Frequently Asked Questions


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What are kitchen display systems, and why are they becoming so popular in restaurants? When you’re in the fast-paced food and beverage industry, clarity and organization are crucial to your success. Digital ticket display systems allow restaurants to improve their kitchen flow and manage orders in a more efficient manner. 

In this article, we answer five frequently asked questions about kitchen display systems. Keep reading to learn more about kitchen display systems and how they work.

1. What Is a Kitchen Display System and Does My Business Need One?

A kitchen display system (KDS) is a digital solution designed to streamline and enhance communication in a restaurant's kitchen. It replaces traditional paper tickets with digital displays that show incoming orders, cooking instructions, and order status. A kitchen display system includes a digital 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.

A KDS integrates with a restaurant's point-of-sale (POS) system and online ordering platforms, allowing orders to flow seamlessly from the front-of-house to the kitchen staff. These systems often feature customizable layouts and color-coded alerts to prioritize orders based on factors like urgency or table location. Additionally, your KDS may include functionalities such as order tracking, time stamping, and performance analytics to improve kitchen efficiency and accuracy.

Businesses in the hospitality industry typically use a KDS to optimize kitchen operations and improve the overall quality of service. By replacing paper tickets with digital displays, a KDS minimizes errors and miscommunications between front-of-house staff and kitchen personnel, leading to faster order preparation and reduced wait times for customers. The right KDS can help you increase productivity, maintain consistency in food quality, and deliver a streamlined experience to patrons.

Want to see a KDS in action?

2. How Do Kitchen Display Systems Work?

A restaurant KDS must be fed order data from a source that it is directly connected to. Once an order is entered, it is transmitted electronically to the KDS in the kitchen.

While some KDS solutions only connect to a POS, others are open and can incorporate orders from other online or third-party sources.

Fresh offers an open KDS that can receive orders through three main methods:

  • Direct Integration with POS: Integrate seamlessly with your POS system so your orders are automatically sent to the KDS as they are entered.
  • Online Ordering Consolidation Platforms: Many online ordering platforms connect directly to third-party marketplaces (like UberEats and GrubHub), but not always. If a direct integration doesn’t exist, order aggregators like Cuboh can  connect your third-party orders  directly to your KDS. 
  • Webhooks, APIs and Zapier: Open KDS systems like Fresh KDS can be connected to any order source. If you want to do it on your own  you can directly connect Fresh to third-party ordering sources using Webhooks, API, or Zapier.

Once received, orders are displayed on digital screens or monitors installed in various kitchen stations. Each order is presented clearly with details such as items ordered, modifications, table numbers, and any special instructions.

Kitchen staff can easily track the status of each order on the KDS, from the time it is received to when it is being prepared, cooked, and finally completed. Some KDS solutions offer features such as color-coded alerts or audible notifications to indicate order urgency or special requirements.

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.

3. What Are the Benefits of a Restaurant KDS?

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

  • Increased efficiency. Kitchen 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 of KDS screens to communicate with each other helps workers at different stations orchestrate the ticket so every item is ready at the exact same time.
  • Fewer comps and voids. A KDS helps restaurants reduce food waste by minimizing errors and miscommunications in order preparation. Better communication in the kitchen leads to fewer voids and comps that happen when orders are incorrect. Fewer order mistakes directly impacts your profitability as well as guest satisfaction.
  • Real-time tracking. What gets measured gets done. With paper tickets, it's a manual process to track ticket times 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.

4. How Much Does a Kitchen Display System 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 ongoing 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 as low as $10-$15 per month and increase based on the 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 the 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 setup 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. Fresh KDS is compatible with iOS 13+ and Android 7+ tablet devices. 

Ready to update your equipment? Check out our hardware recommendations for KDS.

5. How Hard Is It To Set Up a Kitchen Display System?

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 setups — for example, getting the local network connection to work may involve setting a static IP on your tablet and making sure your 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 is a tablet-based system that works with multiple POS systems, is easy to set up, and can be up and running in under 10 minutes.

How To Pick The Best KDS For Your Business

Choosing the right system enables you to access the features and support you need to run your kitchen efficiently. Here are seven 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 a KDS in their kitchens. Their input can help you choose the right KDS for your restaurant.
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