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A kitchen display system digitizes tickets and displays them in a clear, organized, and prioritized manner. With a kitchen display system, gone are the (frustrating) days of the line being overrun by messy tickets, orders being lost due to preventable mistakes, and customers waiting needlessly for their dishes.
- It’s commonplace for restaurants to use technology in their dining rooms and for their off-premise operations, but extending the use of modern tech can make a big difference in the kitchen, too.
- Although using a kitchen display system comes at a price, doing so often saves you money in the long run due to the loss using a KDS prevents.
- Using a KDS often means you don’t need someone to expedite orders, which can help you staff more strategically.
What Is a Kitchen Display System (KDS)?
If you’re wondering, “what is a kitchen display system,” we’re here to tell you that it’s an essential tool for modern restaurants. A kitchen display system, or KDS, is an electronic screen that essentially eliminates the need for paper tickets in a restaurant kitchen. A KDS displays orders, and it can automatically sort, prioritize, and update items. A KDS makes your kitchen staff’s workflow more efficient, speeds up ticket times, and prevents mistakes.
What a Kitchen Display System Does
While traditional POS systems help modernize the restaurant ordering process, systems that include a KDS take putting technology to work even further. Take a look at the process of how a KDS helps get food to hungry customers more efficiently:
- Ordering: Your front-of-house staff places customer orders through your POS system.
- Order routing: Once an order is placed, it’s sent to the appropriate station in the kitchen (fry station, grill, pastry, etc.) and displayed on your KDS hardware.
- Prioritization: The system automatically orders and prioritizes tickets — just like someone working on the line as an expo would do.
- Updates: If a customer wants to add or change their order, updates are displayed and communicated directly from the screen.
- Inventory management: Restaurant inventory management is extremely important, and a good KDS tracks and analyzes data about the ingredients that were used to send out orders.
Does My Restaurant Need a Kitchen Display System?
Most restaurants can benefit substantially from using a kitchen display system. While it’s possible to do things the old-fashioned way, allowing technology to do some of the heavy lifting can help make your operations more seamless. That being said, investing in a KDS is an important decision, so you should think seriously about whether or not doing so makes sense for your business.
Benefits of Using a Kitchen Display System in Your Restaurant
There are a range of reasons your restaurant may want to consider using a KDS. Besides making things faster and more efficient, take a look at some important pros:
- Information is centralized: Rather than having numerous individual tickets crowding the line (which can be easily lost or misplaced), relying on kitchen automation keeps all your orders together. Plus, you’ll have a digital log of everything your restaurant has served that you can access as needed.
- Orders can be changed and updated: Mistakes happen. Rather than a server having to scratch out an entree or handwrite a modification on a ticket (which often leads to confusion) updates can be made directly through the system. This also makes it less of a headache when a guest cancels an order or changes their mind.
- Data analysis is easier: Kitchen display software is another tool you can use to collect data — which allows you to discover patterns that can inform important decisions.
When A Kitchen Display System Isn’t the Right Choice
If you’re opening a restaurant, it can be easy to keep modern technology concerns in mind. However, if you’ve already been operating without a KDS, sometimes it doesn't make sense to incorporate a kitchen order display system into your current business. Here’s why:
- POS integration issues: If you love your current POS, but it doesn’t include KDS features and can’t be integrated with stand-alone KDS hardware, you’ll need to decide if moving to an entirely new platform is worth it for your restaurant.
- Limited kitchen space: Logistically speaking, you’ll need to have adequate space to display your KDS tablet. Ensuring your team can easily view and reach the screen is also important to keep in mind.
- Limited budget: Kitchen display system price is essential to keep in mind as you weigh the pros and cons. If you’re on a tight budget, you may need to wait until your finances are looking better to invest in a KDS.
Best Kitchen Display System Providers
As with most restaurant technology solutions, there are a range of providers that offer robust kitchen display systems. While some offer both kitchen display system software and hardware, some offer hardware that integrates with other POS systems. Take a look at a few popular platforms to help you understand which KDS system is best for your business:
- Epson: Epson is a freestanding KDS that can be integrated with several popular POS platforms. It’s a great option if you want to modernize your kitchen without having to go through the process of installing an entirely new system. However, upfront costs can be high since the hardware is expensive.
- Fresh KDS: This is another stand-alone system that integrates with popular POS systems. It’s a good low-cost option since prices start at just $19 per month. The downside is that it doesn’t integrate with as many systems as other platforms on the market.
- Lightspeed: This system is a cloud-based POS that offers KDS features. It offers a range of tools, and restaurants can choose between four tiers depending on the features they need. Although this system isn’t as customizable as others, it’s still a robust, reliable system. Prices depend on the overall POS package you choose.
- Revel Systems: Revel is a hybrid POS system that runs on iPads. The platform offers its own KDS system, but it can also be used with Epson’s system for businesses that need heavier-duty hardware. This one is great for drive-through and takeout-driven operations. Prices vary and depend on the POS payment structure you choose.
- Square: Best suited for quick service and small-scale operations, Square is a cloud-based POS that isn’t too expensive. While their higher tier plans include a free KDS, their free subscription allows you to add a KDS for just $20 per month.
- Toast: Toast is a popular POS system that features an excellent KDS. This system is best for restaurants that have a lot of moving parts and require a high level of customization. Prices vary, but overall tend to be on the more expensive side since you’ll have access to so many features.
How to Select the Best Kitchen Display System
As you can see, there are a plethora of kitchen display systems that are available on the market. Every restaurant is different, so it’s important to think carefully about which features will benefit your business. Considering factors such as how much off-premise business your restaurant conducts, how much kitchen space you have, and how often you need to fire multi-course meals is wise as you kick off the research process.
Features to Look for in a Kitchen Display System
Whether you’re trying to set up restaurant rewards programs, a security system, or a KDS, it’s always crucial to know which features matter most for your business. Check out a few features to keep in mind when selecting a KDS below:
- Customization: Most systems allow you to customize things like how you’d like orders to be displayed, color coding, etc.
- Coursing: If you run a full-service restaurant that serves multi-course meals, selecting a system that features easy-to-use order-firing tools is a must. Using a KDS for coursing means tables won’t wait too long between their appetizers and entrees, or accidentally receive everything at the same time.
- Routing: If your kitchen has several distinct stations that each require its own display system, you’ll want to pay attention to order routing functionalities.
- Recipes: Some systems allow you to store recipes, ingredients, and preparation tips directly in the system. This can help your staff when they need a quick reference as well as when it's time to train a new employee.
- Off-premise integration: If you do a lot of delivery and takeout, it’s essential to opt for a system that can incorporate off-premise orders into your kitchen’s workflow. Being able to see all your restaurant online ordering systems in the same place can prevent off-premise items from being lost or delayed.
- Backup capabilities: Since using a KDS means relying on the internet, you should look into how each system will function when there’s a connectivity issue.
How to Get Started with a Restaurant Kitchen Display System
If you’re ready to get serious about streamlining your restaurant operations, take a look at the following steps you should take to get started with a restaurant kitchen display system:
- Research: Whether you’re choosing the best restaurant business loan or selecting a poultry purveyor, doing your homework matters. The same rings true when you’re ready to get started with a kitchen display system.
- Reach out: Once you’ve looked at various providers’ websites, you may need to reach out to them regarding questions that are specific to your restaurant and its needs.
- Schedule demos: Most providers offer demos so you can experience their system in action.
- Choose your system: Once you feel confident in your decision, it’s time to take the plunge. Your provider will help you get everything up and running.
- Train your staff: There will definitely be a learning curve involved as you transition to using a KDS, so allowing time for proper training is important. Whether it's an online restaurant reservation system or digital clock-ins, anytime you implement new technology everyone will need time to adjust.