A Kitchen Display System (KDS) is a digital screen that replaces printed or handwritten ticket orders in commercial kitchens by connecting to the restaurant’s point-of-sale (POS) system. Generally, restaurant POS systems have a corresponding KDS system that can be added for an additional monthly fee. KDS systems cannot operate without being attached to a POS system.
A good kitchen display system will streamline kitchen communication, reduce human error, and monitor prep times for each dish. We examined dozens of KDS systems and their corresponding POS systems based on price, ease of use, and features to arrive at the top six KDS systems, including the best overall.
Top 6 Kitchen Display Systems for 2019
Restaurants that want a flexible KDS that can work with any POS.
Small and new restaurants that want an affordable POS and KDS.
Restaurants that want a POS with advanced reporting at a low cost.
Restaurants that want at-a-glance table and reservation management.
Large restaurants or chain restaurants with multiple locations.
Full-service restaurants with comprehensive table management features.
How We Evaluated Kitchen Display Systems
In order to function effectively, your KDS system needs to integrate with your point-of-sale system, so the KDS systems you can choose from are dependent on the POS software you use. But, the best systems integrate seamlessly with your front-of-house management, have affordable hardware options, send guest orders directly to the kitchen, offer coursing and timing, and insights to make the kitchen more efficient.
We used the following to evaluate which kitchen display system is the best:
- Integrations and Compatibility – We looked at which point-of-sale systems each KDS is compatible with.
- Price – We looked at how much each system costs, including hardware pricing, monthly software fees, and any installation fees.
- Ease of Use – We considered how easy each program is to use and what time-saving features each program has.
- Order Coursing and Timing – We considered extra features like coursing and time management.
- Recipe and Ingredient Lookup – We also looked at whether each system has resources for kitchen staff to double-check recipes or ingredients for quality control.
- Insights and Reporting – We looked at whether each KDS system can provide data on things like order fulfillment times and order accuracy.
Based on the above criteria, ConnectSmart Kitchen is our top choice Kitchen Display System because it has the flexibility of working with any point-of-sale system and can be completely customized to the needs of your individual business.
ConnectSmart Kitchen: Best Overall KDS for Small Businesses:
ConnectSmart Kitchen (CSK) by QSR Automations is the only kitchen display system on our list that is built to work with multiple POS systems. CSK has certified integrations with over 65 POS systems and can create custom integrations to work with other programs, including proprietary software. While potentially more expensive that other options, CSK is our top choice because it can be completely customized for any business, and is not limited to specific POS systems.
ConnectSmart Kitchen Pricing
CSK pricing is customized to each restaurant based on how many stations you need setup in your kitchen and what features you want to be included. The average cost per station is roughly $1,200, including hardware and software. Most other KDS systems operate on a monthly fee, but CSK is one flat price.
ConnectSmart Kitchen Features
CSK has industry-standard features like the ability to course and route items to the appropriate kitchen station to reduce ticket time, and timed features and recipes to improve food quality. CSK operates on a touchscreen or monitors with bump bars (like a remote control). What sets CSK apart is that it can integrate with almost any POS system.
Additional ConnectSmart Kitchen features include:
ConnectSmart Kitchen Ease of Use
CSK is very easy to use, especially because the solution is customized to your restaurant. They work with restaurants of all sizes, from smaller kitchens that just need one KDS station to national chain restaurants. Restaurant owners can pick and choose the features they need, including recipe viewers, online ordering integrations, and trackers.
ConnectSmart Kitchen Integrations and Compatibility
CSK has certified integrations with 65 POS systems, including HotSauce and ClearView. Custom integrations can be arranged for just about any POS system. CSK also integrates with guest management software and online ordering and delivery. ConnectSmart also has their own POS, guest, and restaurant management software.
ConnectSmart Kitchen Reporting and Resources
CSK provides over 100 data points, including speed of service and kitchen order statuses. With CSK, you can access the analytics dashboard from any of the system screens. Businesses can set custom metrics for each area of the kitchen, and all data is stored both locally and in the cloud, so business owners can look at historical numbers.
What ConnectSmart Kitchen Is Missing
While CSK can work with just about any POS system, you will have to work with the company to get your POS integration up and running if you are not using their system or one of the 65 certified partners. None of our choices for Best Restaurant POS are on their certified partner list.
ConnectSmart Kitchen Reviews
Overall, reviews for CSK are very positive. Business owners like how feature-rich the system is. Many reviews also praise the integration options and customizations possible with CSK. Some reviews say that the interface is not as user-friendly as other options, and that it can take a little while to learn how to navigate.
Fresh KDS: Best KDS for Small and Startup Restaurants
Fresh KDS is a wireless, tabled-based kitchen display system that integrates with Square POS, Square Register, and Square for Restaurants. Square is a great POS system for cost-conscious and new businesses, and Fresh KDS is the only official Square partner for kitchen display systems. So, if you use Square POS or Square for Restaurants to manage your business, this is the best KDS for you. Fresh KDS also works with Clover POS.
Fresh KDS Pricing
Fresh KDS is very affordable, costing $20/month for up to two screens. Businesses can add up to eight additional screens for $5 per screen per month, for a total of ten screens. The only hardware you need are Android tablets or iPads, which you need to buy separately. Tablets can be purchased new for under $400 each from a number of vendors. No kitchen ticket printers are required.
Fresh KDS Features
Fresh KDS connects with Square to display orders in real-time. The interface is very simple: orders appear green, and change to orange and then red as the ticket time increases. Kitchen staff simply tap an order on the screen to mark it as completed and clear it from the queue.
Additional Fresh KDS features include:
Fresh KDS Ease of Use
Fresh KDS has a super-simple interface that make it easy to use. The red, orange, and green color coding system makes it easy to digest ticket and order information at a glance. Compared to CSK, which some users report as complex, Fresh KDS has a very straightforward and intuitive screen.
Fresh KDS Integrations and Compatibility
Fresh KDS only works with Square POS, Square Register, and Square for Restaurants. Square is one of our overall top choices for POS systems for small businesses, cafes, and restaurants. So, if you use Square for your business and want a kitchen display system, Fresh KDS is for you. Fresh KDS operates on both iPad and Android touchscreen tablets.
Fresh KDS Reporting and Resources
Fresh KDS has an analytics dashboard that can be accessed via the web. Reports focus on ticket time, so businesses can view average ticket time by day and week. Businesses can also view which menu items are most popular, which days are busiest, and view an activity log. Businesses can use insights into popular items to help improve menu offerings and devise promotions.
What Fresh KDS Is Missing
Fresh KDS is not as customizable as other solutions (such as ConnectSmart Kitchen), doesn’t include recipe viewing options, and doesn’t have automation features like timed firing that Toast has. The biggest drawback of Fresh KDS, and most KDS programs, are that they can only be used with certain programs. Fresh KDS can also only be used with Square or Clover software.
Fresh KDS Reviews
There aren’t many reviews of Fresh KDS available. In some forums, users were frustrated because they could only use one screen that displayed up to 10 orders with Fresh KDS. However, a release earlier this year allows businesses to have up to 10 screens, so this is no longer a problem.
Toast Kitchen Display System: Best KDS for Advanced Reporting
Toast is our top choice POS System for Restaurants because it is feature-rich and user-friendly. If you use Toast’s POS or restaurant management software and you want a kitchen display system, you will use Toast KDS. The entire Toast system is Android-based, including the KDS.
Toast KDS Pricing
Pricing for Toast KDS is built into your custom Toast POS monthly fee. The Toast POS is $79/month, but with the KDS added on, the monthly fee will likely be higher. Businesses can purchase Android hardware for their KDS directly through Toast, which offers 0% interest and 36-month financing. Popular POS hardware packages start at $899 and include includes one 10-inch terminal, flip stand, and magnetic card reader. KDS packages are extra and are priced individually. All hardware comes with an additional $499 remote installation fee.
Toast KDS Features
Toast KDS displays orders with allergy and modification information at the forefront to help eliminate mistakes, which is a unique feature. Unlike Fresh KDS, Toast has automation features—items are fired to the KDS screen based on cooking time so that all of the food for each table is ready at the same time. Toast KDS integrates with Toast POS and third-party systems for online ordering and delivery, so all orders appear under the same KDS system. Toast also offers detailed reporting.
Additional Toast KDS features include:
Toast Ease of Use
Toast KDS operates on durable Android touchscreens that can handle the heat of a kitchen and the touch of a greasy finger. Toast automatically sorts and fires order items so that they will be ready at the same time, streamlining the cooking process and eliminating any calculations or guesswork.
Toast Integrations and Compatibility
Toast KDS works seamlessly with Toast POS. The KDS system also integrates with online ordering and delivery partners like GrubHub and Chowly so that orders that come from in-house, online, or in-app will all appear on the KDS. Kitchen staff can also text guests directly from the KDS to let them know when takeout orders are ready.
Toast Reporting and Resources
Toast KDS is connected to Toast POS, so all of your restaurant’s data is held in one place. Restaurants can use Toast KDS to see what cook or prep stations are causing increased ticket times and view inventory reports to see what is selling the most to make sure chefs are prepared to cook the most popular items.
What Toast KDS Is Missing
Toast is the only KDS on our list that highlights allergy and modifications on each order, and the Toast POS system overall is great with advanced reporting. However, Toast KDS does not appear to have the ability to show recipes for reference like CSK does. Toast KDS is also part of the Toast POS system, so if you don’t use Toast POS to take or manage orders, it would not make sense to use Toast KDS.
Toast KDS Reviews
There aren’t many reviews specifically for Toast KDS, but the overall Toast POS system has extremely positive reviews. Business owners like that the program has lots of management features and is easy to use. The only recurring negative comment is that sometimes there is a lag time between screens, which could be a problem for a very busy restaurant with multiple screens in the front and back of the house. Visit our Toast POS Review Page to read more.
TouchBistro: Best KDS for Table and Reservation Management
TouchBistro is an iPad-based restaurant management software that was built by former restaurant employees specifically for the food service industry. The software includes a point-of-sale system, inventory management, and a kitchen display system, among other features, at a mid-range price point. TouchBistro is a great system for restaurants that want at-a-glance table management and in-depth reservation management.
TouchBistro KDS Pricing
TouchBistro KDS pricing depends on your existing TouchBistro POS license. POS plans range from $69/month to $399/month based on how many terminals you need. The KDS feature is an additional quote-based price on top of the monthly POS fee. TouchBistro KDS runs on any iPad with iOS 6 or later, which can be purchased new for under $350 apiece, and a Star Micronics impact printer, which can be purchased for around $200.
TouchBistro POS Tiers
TouchBistro KDS Features
Unlike other KDS systems which replace printers altogether, TouchBistro KDS works with kitchen impact printers. Otherwise, TouchBistro includes all the standard features of a touchscreen KDS program. Similar to Fresh KDS, TouchBistro color codes tickets based on how long they have been open. Individual cook times are tracked to make sure everyone and every item keep pace.
Additional TouchBistro KDS features include:
TouchBistro Ease of Use
Unlike Fresh KDS or Toast, the TouchBistro KDS display can be customized with bigger or smaller ticket sizes, font sizes, and general appearance settings. Employees can swipe through tickets, like with Toast. Another unique feature for TouchBistro is that employees are notified via a loud chime when a new order appears on the KDS screen.
TouchBistro Integrations and Compatibility
TouchBistro KDS works seamlessly with TouchBistro POS and kitchen impact printers. For display screens, restaurants can use any iPad with iOS 6 or later. TouchBistro partners with JUST EAT for online ordering, which also integrates with TouchBistro KDS.
TouchBistro Reporting and Resources
TouchBistro KDS tracks individual cook times for each item so managers can see which items or chefs are slowing down ticket times. TouchBistro does not have recipe viewers or other analytics built into the KDS itself, like ConnectSmart Kitchen and Toast KDS do.
What TouchBistro KDS Is Missing
TouchBistro is great for restaurants that handle a lot of reservations and want to be efficient with managing their tables, but TouchBistro does not have as many reporting and analytics features as other KDS programs. However, the ticket sizes, font sizes, and colors can all be customized on TouchBistro KDS, whereas Toast, Fresh KDS, and CSK do not have this feature.
TouchBistro KDS Reviews
There aren’t many reviews specifically for TouchBistro KDS. However, the overall TouchBistro restaurant management software program has very positive reviews. Business owners like that the program is easy to use and does not require specialized hardware. Visit our TouchBistro POS Review Page to learn more.
Lightspeed: Best KDS for Large and Chain Restaurants
Lightspeed Restaurant is an iPad-based point of sale and management system for the food service industry. The KDS is web-based and can send order information to any iPad or screen as the orders are being made. Staff can update the orders from the KDS with a single tap to indicate if they are being prepared or are ready to serve. Lightspeed is designed for larger restaurants and chains, so restaurants can configure multiple kitchen and bar stations.
Lightspeed KDS Pricing
Lightspeed KDS pricing is quote-based, but is in addition to the regular Lightspeed POS, which is $69/month. This base price includes one register, personalized onboarding, 24/7 support, free updates, and basic reporting. Lightspeed runs on iPads, which are purchased separately and can be bought new for under $350 each. Kitchen printers and buzzers can be purchased through Lightspeed for custom rates.
Lightspeed KDS Features
Lightspeed KDS color-codes orders so all staff members can easily see what orders are ready and which items are still cooking. Lightspeed KDS is connected to Lightspeed POS, so orders appear in the kitchen the minute they are entered by servers in real time.
Additional Lightspeed KDS features include:
Lightspeed Ease of Use
Like the other KDS systems on our list, Lightspeed operates on a touchscreen, so orders can be marked as ready with a quick tap, and chefs can swipe through to see all open tickets at once. Staff can also swipe through closed tickets. A simple color-coded system makes it easy for staff to see what tickets are new, cooking, and ready to be served.
Lightspeed Integrations and Compatibility
Lightspeed KDS is built for Lightspeed Restaurant. The entire system is web-based and operates on iPads or screens. Lightspeed also offers several online ordering integrations, including Ask Emma, Chowly, Mobi2Go, UEat, and more.
Lightspeed Reporting and Resources
Lightspeed Restaurant POS has tons of reports on top-selling products, transactions by staff member, end-of-day reports, accounting reports, and more. Lightspeed’s KDS displays ticket times to keep track of how fast orders are leaving the kitchen. Like Fresh KDS, Lightspeed also uses color codes to help the staff see what is being cooked and what is ready to serve.
What Lightspeed KDS Is Missing
Lightspeed is the best option for chain restaurants, but Lightspeed’s KDS does not seem to have a recipe viewer option like ConnectSmart Kitchen does. Lightspeed also does not have the same on-screen customization options that TouchBistro has. However, Lightspeed does have the ability to set multiple kitchen and bar KDS stations and divert specific menu items to each.
Lightspeed KDS Reviews
There aren’t many reviews specifically for Lightspeed KDS, but reviews for Lightspeed Restaurant as a whole are very positive. The system is user-friendly and provides a lot of detailed reports and inventory management features. However, the program can be pricey for small businesses. Visit our Lightspeed Restaurant Review Page to read more.
Upserve: Best KDS for Full-Service Restaurants
Upserve is a suite of restaurant management tools that includes Breadcrumb POS. Upserve offers customizable kitchen display systems that can operate on either a touchscreen or with a traditional bump bar (like a remote). If you use Breadcrumb or Upserve for front-of-house management or to take orders, you will use Upserve as your KDS solution.
Breadcrumb POS plans start at $65 or $100 per month per terminal depending on which features you need. The KDS feature is an additional quote-based fee on top of the monthly POS cost. Restaurants receive a quote for hardware as well. For the KDS, you can choose between touchscreens or a traditional monitor with a bump bar.
Upserve Breadcrumb POS Tiers
$65 per terminal
$100 per terminal
|Inventory & supplier management|
|Loyalty program & customer insights|
|Advanced menu performance|
|In-depth server performance|
|Kitchen Display System|
Upserve restaurant management software and KDS have industry-standard features to manage each order and streamline internal communications. The KDS system can be used instead of, or in addition to, thermal printers in the kitchen. Upserve KDS works with in-house, takeout, and delivery orders. Anytime a server changes a ticket item or adds an item to a ticket, a timestamped notification appears so chefs don’t miss a thing.
Additional Upserve KDS features include:
Upserve Ease of Use
Restaurants can choose to operate Upserve KDS on touchscreens or monitors with bump bars, so you can use whichever hardware is most convenient for your business. ConnectSmart Kitchen is the only other KDS on our list that offers a bump bar option. However, Upserve KDS is not color-coded like Fresh KDS and Lightspeed are, so it is not as easy to see the status of each ticket at a glance.
Upserve Integrations and Compatibility
Upserve integrates with a lot of online, takeout, and delivery ordering systems, including Seamless, GrubHub, Chowly, and more. All orders from Breadcrumb POS and third-party integrations appear in the same place on the Upserve KDS.
Upserve Reporting and Resources
Upserve and Breadcrumb as a whole offer a lot of reporting features. However, there aren’t many reporting features specifically for the KDS system other than the ability to view order history. For example, there is no option to view recipes or average ticket times. While Upserve KDS is the best and only option if you use Breadcrumb POS, if you are looking for a KDS that offers a lot of insights, Toast, Fresh KDS, and CSK offer the most insights.
What Upserve Is Missing
Upserve is a great option for full-service restaurants. But Upserve KDS does not include recipe viewing options or insights on ticket times, as ConnectSmart Kitchen and Toast do. Upserve is also not color-coded like Lightspeed and Fresh KDS. However, this is the only KDS that works with Breadcrumb POS and Upserve restaurant management software.
There aren’t many reviews specifically for the KDS function of Upserve, but reviews for Upserve and Breadcrumb as a whole are very positive. Business owners like that it is designed specifically for restaurant employees, and that the platform offers lots of online ordering integrations. Some reviewers mention that the program is pricey for small businesses. Visit our Breadcrumb POS Review Page to learn more.
Kitchen display systems streamline communications, decrease ticket times, and help eliminate order errors. Overall, the kitchen display system you use almost exclusively depends on which point of sale and restaurant management system your business uses, as kitchen display systems are often a feature of your overall restaurant management software. The best option is to choose a restaurant-specific POS software that includes a KDS feature.
ConnectSmart Kitchen is our top choice for KDS solutions because it has certified integrations with 65 POS systems, and can be customized to work with just about any POS system. In other words, even if you change your POS, you can still keep all of the KDS hardware and solutions you have invested in.