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March 29, 2024

What Is a KDS? The Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Display Systems


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POS Used

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Is your order system supporting every aspect of your kitchen operations? In the bustling world of modern restaurants, where every second counts and every order must be executed with precision, the kitchen has to stay on track. 

For many businesses, the kitchen display system (KDS) is the heart and soul of keeping everyone on the same page and streamlining operations. To stay competitive, many restaurants, coffee shops, and commercial kitchens are switching to a digital ticketing system to replace traditional paper tickets.

Imagine this: a busy Saturday evening, a packed restaurant, and a steady stream of orders flooding in from impatient customers. In the chaos of the kitchen, communication is key, yet traditional methods like handwritten tickets or paper labels can often lead to confusion, delays, and even mistakes. Printed tickets can easily get lost in the shuffle. This is where technology comes to the rescue, revolutionizing the way restaurants manage their kitchen operations. The KDS is a digital solution designed to streamline communication, enhance efficiency, and elevate the dining experience for both customers and restaurant staff. 

In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve deep into the world of KDS, exploring its features, benefits, and the transformative impact it has on the modern restaurant landscape. Keep reading to discover how this innovative technology is reshaping the way today’s kitchens operate.

What Is a KDS?

A KDS is a kitchen display system that replaces traditional order tickets in a restaurant's kitchen. Rather than writing or printing the order on paper tickets for the kitchen, the KDS automatically displays the order on a screen in the kitchen after it has been entered into the point of sale (POS) system. The KDS helps kitchen staff quickly identify upcoming orders and understand what’s coming down the line at a glance. 

The KDS can work with your existing POS and online ordering system to help keep everything in one convenient place. Restaurant staff can move, prioritize, hold and recall orders to ensure kitchen operations flow smoothly.

What Does KDS Stand For?

KDS stands for “kitchen display system.” This system works on digital touchscreens (like tablets or monitors) and bump bars that are mounted in the kitchen and connected to your POS system. When your staff enters an order or an online order is placed, the POS system will automatically load the order details into the kitchen display system so it is visible to your kitchen staff. A KDS refers to the software used to display and organize your orders. Some KDS brands require specific hardware, while others will work on the hardware of your choice.

What Does a KDS Do?

A KDS helps improve the efficiency of a kitchen by streamlining the order preparation process and digitizing all order information. This helps reduce food waste, increase profitability, and improve the guests’ experience. 

When an order is placed through a restaurant's POS system or online ordering platform, it is automatically sent to the KDS, where it appears on a digital screen. The KDS displays all the information the kitchen staff need to prepare the order, including the name of the dish, any special requests or modifications, and the table number or order number. Orders are organized on the KDS to help your staff keep track of when orders are due, and you can bump, hold, or edit orders as needed.

What Is the Purpose of a KDS in a Restaurant?

In the world of restaurants and hospitality, a KDS helps kitchen staff manage orders more efficiently. With a digital display, orders are showcased so staff can see real-time updates and requests. Kitchen staff can easily see orders as soon as they come through, as well as any real-time edits that may be made after the order is fired. A KDS can also clarify special order details, like timing, packaging, and ingredients. This helps to reduce errors and improve the speed and accuracy of order preparation.

  • Handle more orders in less time
  • Manage kitchen chaos and order times
  • Reduce order voids and comps
  • Simplify communication to reduce confusion
  • Pivot faster on order edits or special requests

Do you need a kitchen to benefit from a KDS? Check out this blog on how a KDS supports food trucks, coffee shops, concession stands, and more.

How Does a KDS Work?

Once you’ve loaded your KDS onto your device and connected it to your POS, you’re ready to go! Fresh KDS makes this process easy by providing walk-through instructions so you can connect to your POS and devices in less than 10 minutes. After setting up Fresh, your KDS is ready to help your kitchen staff stay on top of orders.

  1. Enter the order in the POS system — either manually by restaurant staff at the POS terminal or automatically through online ordering platforms or mobile apps.
  2. The order is then transmitted electronically to the display screens in the kitchen. This eliminates the need for physical paper tickets or cup labels and ensures instant communication between the front-of-house and kitchen staff.
  3. View the order of requests and ingredient details on the display screens and operate accordingly. The KDS screens or monitors can be installed in various kitchen stations, such as the grill, fryer, or prep area. Each order is presented clearly with details such as items ordered, modifications, table numbers, and any special instructions.
  4. 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. Real-time visibility helps chefs prioritize orders and manage their workflow efficiently.
  5. Mark orders completed on the KDS as things are prepared, cooked, and sent out. You can feature color-coded alerts or audible notifications to signal when orders are ready to be served or if there are any special requirements to be noted. After an order has been marked complete, you can recall it with just a few easy clicks if you need to reinstate it for a remake or want to check the order’s details.
  6. Use insights about kitchen performance, order volumes, average ticket times, and other metrics to improve operations. Reporting and analytics data can help you make informed decisions to optimize kitchen operations and improve overall efficiency.
Want to see a KDS in action?

What are the Advantages of Using a Kitchen Display System?

Are you thinking about switching from paper kitchen tickets to a KDS? Or are you already using a KDS and want to find a better solution that fits the needs of your kitchen? Fresh KDS offers several key advantages to help you streamline operations, support your staff, and take care of your customers.

Improve Kitchen Communication To Reduce Voids and Comps

An integrated KDS seamlessly works with your restaurant's existing POS system or other back-of-house software, automatically transmitting orders from the POS to the KDS to reduce manual data entry, clarify requests, and minimize errors. Automating kitchen orders with your KDS helps streamline operations and ensure real-time synchronization for your staff. With fewer errors, you will also have fewer voids and comps.

Provide a Better Dine-In Experience

You can use your KDS to help improve the overall customer experience by streamlining the order preparation process so customers can receive their food more quickly and accurately. Alerts can be set to highlight key order details, like allergy concerns, so important nuances don’t get lost in the shuffle.

A KDS helps foster efficient communication between front-of-house and back-of-house staff, as orders are sent directly to the kitchen from the POS system. Reducing friction in the preparation process can reduce wait times and ensure that customers receive their meals at the optimal temperature.

Improve Order Communications for Carryout Customers

A KDS that sends real-time order updates and alerts enables restaurants to streamline their carryout process by providing customers with SMS updates on the status of their orders. This proactive communication ensures that customers are more likely to arrive at the right time for pickup so they don’t have to wait on their orders because they arrived too early or get food that’s been sitting because they arrived too late. Clear carryout communication updates with a customer-facing order ready screen leads to improved customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Customize Your KDS Display To Match Your Operational Needs

Don’t worry, you don’t have to fit your orders into an ill-fitting format when it comes to using Fresh. Tailor your setup to your specific requirements and preferences. A customizable KDS provides restaurants with the flexibility to adapt to changing business needs and optimize kitchen operations according to their unique requirements.

Select from different display layouts, font sizes, customizable order views, and configurable settings to accommodate different kitchen workflows and menu structures. Route orders to specific stations based on the items needed or order type. You can even turn on and off features, like table or guest numbers, to meet the needs of your business. 

Reduce Paper Waste in the Restaurant

One of the key advantages of a KDS is that it reduces the amount of paper typically wasted in the kitchen. Instead of using paper tickets that clutter your workspace and can easily be lost or damaged, orders are displayed digitally on a screen. Plus, your KDS can be set up to print out labels as needed for situations like to-go orders.

Assess Kitchen Analytics To Strengthen Your Business

KDS reporting is essential if you want to enhance kitchen operations to grow or improve profitability. For example, you can pinpoint areas of delay in order preparation by analyzing reports on ticket times. Is a certain item or station causing a consistent slowdown? Did a handful of patrons experience a frustratingly long wait time? 

Monitoring order accuracy and timing through KDS reports allows managers to identify recurring errors and provide targeted training to kitchen staff, ensuring consistent standards in food preparation. While many KDS solutions report on things like average order time, it’s important to be able to separate the outliers and understand patterns in your reports if you want to adjust your processes to improve operations. Use kitchen analytics from your KDS to know how many orders are delivered on time versus late, and drill into how you can optimize your process for a more consistent experience.

What Are the Different Kinds of KDS?

There are several different types of KDS systems available on the market, ranging from simple systems that come bundled with a POS to more robust integrated systems that work in conjunction with a restaurant's POS and offer more capabilities to fit your needs. 

Your KDS should integrate seamlessly with the restaurant's POS system, allowing for synchronized order management and inventory tracking. It may also integrate with other systems such as online ordering platforms or reservation systems for a more cohesive operation. The specific features and capabilities of a KDS will depend on the needs and requirements of the restaurant.

Let’s take a closer look at the most common types of KDS solutions on the market.

  • Onboard KDS: Some POS systems have developed a KDS solution they bundle as part of the deal. Typically, the KDS software that comes with your POS system is going to be limited in its capabilities. You may find it difficult to customize your order view or get the detailed reporting you need to optimize your business.
  • Hardware-Based KDS: This type of KDS typically consists of dedicated hardware devices, such as monitors or displays, installed in the kitchen that come with pre-installed software. A hardware-based KDS may require additional components like controllers, bump bars, and printers for order management and ticket routing. These limited display systems can end up costing more when you need to update your equipment or add to your setup.
  • Integrative KDS: Flexible KDS solutions can leverage multiple devices and seamlessly integrate with your POS system with a wireless connection. Orders are transmitted from the POS or ordering platforms to the device, screen, or tablets you’ve connected. You can access your KDS setup and data through web-based interfaces or mobile applications. An app-based KDS offers scalability, real-time updates, and more flexibility in the devices and POS you use for your business.

How Will Your KDS Connect To Your System?

A restaurant's KDS relies on a direct connection to receive the order data it displays. This data transmission occurs electronically once an order is inputted into the system. While certain KDS solutions exclusively link to a POS, others offer flexibility and allow integration with various online or third-party sources.

Fresh presents an open KDS, facilitating order reception through three primary channels:

  • Seamless POS Integration: Effortlessly integrate with your POS system, ensuring orders are automatically relayed to the KDS upon entry.
  • Online Ordering Centralization Platforms: Connect online ordering platforms and third-party delivery services (such as UberEats) to the KDS via aggregators like Cuboh. These consolidation platforms bridge connections directly between your POS, online platforms, and your KDS.
  • Manual Integrations: Are you a DIYer? You can connect Fresh to third-party ordering platforms like Webhooks or Olo on your own, bypassing the need for a centralization platform.

How Much Does a KDS Cost?

KDS cost can vary significantly depending on several factors, including the type of system, the size of the restaurant, and the specific features required. Generally, KDS software can be priced either through a one-time license fee or a recurring subscription model. A one-time license fee may cost a few hundred dollars per screen, while subscription plans require less upfront and offer more flexibility for your business to scale.

Fresh offers a free KDS trial and clear-cut pricing that starts at $15 per month.

In addition to software costs, there are other hardware expenses to consider. Some KDS providers offer bundled packages that include both software and hardware, while others may allow you to use the KDS on the device of your choice. The cost of hardware can vary based on factors such as the type of devices needed (e.g., monitors, tablets), their size and specifications, and the brand.

Smaller tablets for kitchen display may cost a few hundred dollars each, while larger screens or specialized hardware components like controllers and bump bars can increase costs. For example, upgrading your hardware might cost around $700 for a 22” touchscreen or up to $1200 for a 55” touchscreen. Furthermore, if a KDS requires specific hardware instead of allowing you to select your own devices, you may need to factor in the additional expense of purchasing or leasing the required equipment.

What ROI Can You Expect from a KDS?

When you’re running a business, you want to cut costs and avoid incurring unnecessary expenses. As such, you might be asking yourself — is a KDS just a cool feature or will it actually save me money? 

The truth is, a digital order system can provide clear and money-saving benefits for your business.

You’re going to spend time and money no matter what kind of kitchen order system you go with — both paper and digital systems are going to require resources like paper, ink, software, or hardware. However, the right KDS can provide a measurable return on your investment (ROI) that goes beyond what a paper system can do. 

Here are some ways you can measure the value of a KDS to show ROI.

Reduced Manual Labor and Streamlined Order Time

Calculate your labor savings by calculating laber cost per order. A KDS that provides clear direction at a glance, enabling order volumes to increase with a more organized kitchen. Factor in the reduction in manual tasks such as order transcription, ticket sorting, and coordination between kitchen stations. Your KDS can even facilitate faster onboarding for new kitchen staff by systematizing and simplifying your ticketing process.

“Before Fresh KDS, it would take new employees 2-3 weeks to understand how we run the business – now, it is only 2-3 hours."

Improved Communications for Lower Kitchen Staff Turnover

Measure your current turnover rate, which is often caused by workers feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. Consider how a KDS helps you clarify responsibilities, keep instructions legible, and facilitate teamwork to boost morale and support your kitchen team. A lower employee churn rate means less time spent onboarding and training while simultaneously increasing the consistency and productivity of your business with a seasoned staff.

Increased Order Accuracy To Avoid Wasted Inventory

Quantify the reduction in order errors and subsequent costs associated with remakes, refunds, or customer dissatisfaction. A KDS can help improve order accuracy by automating the ticket process, codifying communication, and clearly displaying all order details.

Boosted Customer Retention and Business Reputation

Consider the long-term benefits of improved customer satisfaction and loyalty resulting from a more efficient and accurate kitchen operation. Satisfied customers are more likely to return and recommend the restaurant to others, contributing to sustained revenue growth and a positive brand reputation.

Clarity to Adapt Operations and Make Data-Driven Decisions

Use performance metrics, order trends, and peak hours analysis to help grow your business and improve your profitability. By leveraging key insights from a KDS, restaurants can identify opportunities for optimization and efficiency to drive continuous improvement in kitchen operations.

How Is Fresh Different?

There are several KDS options on the market. How can you pick the best one for your business? Fresh KDS provides an easy-to-use interface with a system dedicated to helping you deliver an unforgettable guest experience. 

We understand the challenges of managing a kitchen, and we’ve included features like robust notification capabilities and custom visual layouts to make our solution the very best. With Fresh, you don’t need an IT expert for setup — it’s easy for anyone to download and operate. Our flexible, cross-screen capabilities mean you can use the iPad or Android devices of your choice.

Plus, our system is designed to integrate with your existing systems. We provide resources to hand-hold you through the setup process and get your KDS connected to your POS, devices, and ordering tools. 

With Fresh, you can get all your orders organized in one convenient place.

Is Fresh right for your business? Check out the flexible features Fresh KDS offers.

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