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Best Kitchen Display Systems of December 2023

A kitchen display system can keep your restaurant kitchen organized and running smoothly.
Last updated on May 30, 2023
Edited bySally Lauckner
Fact checked and reviewed

⏰ Estimated read time: 8 minutes

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A kitchen display system, or KDS, is a digital screen that manages customer orders for restaurants. It replaces paper order tickets and helps restaurants organize, prioritize, change and track orders. A KDS can run $10 to $25 per month per screen plus the cost of hardware.
Using a KDS can be a good idea for most restaurants — even places with small kitchens, such as coffee shops or cafes. Here’s a list of the top providers that offer kitchen display systems and more about the benefits of using a KDS.

Best Kitchen Display Systems From Our Partners

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Estimates assume an average interchange fee of 1.81% + $0.10, based on our latest available data. Estimates provided reflect online and in-person transactions, but exclude any keyed transactions. Estimates are based on the lowest monthly plan and processing fees for each provider.

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Toast POS

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on Toast POS's secure website

Get an estimated monthly cost for your business.
4.0/5

Best for Overall kitchen display system

2.99% + $0.15

if you pay for hardware monthly; 2.49% + 15¢ if you buy upfront.

$0.00

Quick Start Bundle; $69 Core plan; $165 Growth plan. Custom plan also available.

Get an estimated monthly cost for your business.
Learn more

on Toast POS's secure website

Lightspeed Restaurant POS

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on Lightspeed Restaurant POS's secure website

4.0/5

Best for Features that increase efficiency

In-person: 2.6% + $0.10

Online: 2.9% + $0.30

$69.00

Starter plan; $189 Essential plan; $399 Premium plan.

Learn more

on Lightspeed Restaurant POS's secure website

Square Restaurant POS

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on Square Restaurant POS's secure website

5.0/5

Best for Free POS software

In-person: 2.6% + $0.10

Online: 2.9% + $0.30

$0.00

Free plan; $60 Plus plan; Custom plan available.

Learn more

on Square Restaurant POS's secure website

TouchBistro

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on TouchBistro's secure website

4.0/5

Best for Offline mode functionality

N/A

Quote-based.

$69.00

and up.

Learn more

on TouchBistro's secure website

Our pick for

Overall kitchen display system

Toast POS

Learn more

on Toast POS's secure website

Payment processing fees

2.99% + $0.15

if you pay for hardware monthly; 2.49% + 15¢ if you buy upfront.

Monthly fee

$0.00

Quick Start Bundle; $69 Core plan; $165 Growth plan. Custom plan also available.

Our pick for

Features that increase efficiency

Lightspeed Restaurant POS

Learn more

on Lightspeed Restaurant POS's secure website

Monthly fee

$69.00

Starter plan; $189 Essential plan; $399 Premium plan.

Our pick for

Free POS software

Square Restaurant POS

Learn more

on Square Restaurant POS's secure website

Monthly fee

$0.00

Free plan; $60 Plus plan; Custom plan available.

Our pick for

Offline mode functionality

TouchBistro

Learn more

on TouchBistro's secure website

Payment processing fees

N/A

Quote-based.

Monthly fee

$69.00

and up.

Top kitchen display system providers

Toast POS: Best overall

Monthly POS fee:
  • $0 for Quick Start Bundle.
  • $69 for Core plan.
  • $110 plus $4 per employee for Restaurant Basics plan.
  • $165 for Growth plan.
  • Custom plans available.
Hardware used: Custom device designed by Toast.
KDS cost: $25 per month plus one-time cost of $629 for screen.
Hardware cost:
  • $627 for Handheld Starter Kit (but $0 if you agree to a higher processing fee).
  • $875 for Countertop Starter Kit (but $0 if you agree to a higher processing fee).
  • $1,234 for Guest Self-Service Starter Kit (but $0 if you agree to a higher processing fee).
Why we like it: It costs more than some of its competitors, but Toast offers a few features the others don’t. The company says its custom-made device is built for abuse, withstanding higher temperatures than iPads, for example. It also supports multiple languages and lets the kitchen ping servers (or guests) via text or an app when their food is up. Read our full Toast POS review.

Lightspeed Restaurant POS: Best for features that increase efficiency

Monthly POS fee:
  • $69 for Starter plan.
  • $189 for Essential plan.
  • $399 for Premium plan.
Hardware used: iPad.
KDS cost: Not listed.
Hardware cost:
Pricing for Lightspeed's iPad and desktop hardware kits is quote-based. Individual hardware products are listed in Lightspeed's online store:
  • $99 for Chipper 2X BT card reader.
  • $199 for iPad stand or swivel stand.
  • $299 for WisePOS E countertop reader.
  • $429 for Lightspeed Lite Server for data backup and offline mode functionality.
Why we like it: Lightspeed’s KDS aids kitchen staff in coordinating delivery, pickup and in-house dining with helpful icons. Other kitchen-friendly details — such as the ability to quickly scan wait times with color coding on each digital ticket or a breakdown of which dishes see the biggest delay — make this a good option. Read our full Lightspeed Restaurant POS review.

Square Restaurant POS: Best for free POS software

Monthly POS fee:
  • $0 for Square POS, Restaurant, Retail and Appointments Free plans.
  • $29 for Square Appointments Plus plan.
  • $60 for Square Restaurant and Retail Plus plans.
  • $69 for Square Appointments Premium plan.
Hardware used: iPad.
KDS cost:
  • $20 per month per display plus cost of hardware if using Square’s free restaurant software.
  • Free to use if you subscribe to Restaurant Plus ($60 per month) plus cost of hardware.
Hardware cost:
  • $0 for Square magstripe-only card reader ($10 for each additional reader) or if using Tap to Pay for iPhone (iPhone not included).
  • $49 and up for Square Reader contactless and chip card reader.
  • $149 for Square Stand iPad POS or Square Stand Mount (iPad not included).
  • $299 for Square Terminal mobile card reader with built-in printer.
  • $799 for Square Register two-screen system.
Why we like it: The feature list of this KDS isn’t as deep as some others, but counter service or pickup- and delivery-oriented restaurants may find that the combination of reasonable pricing and Square’s easy user interface make this a good option. Read our full Square Restaurant POS review.

TouchBistro: Best for offline mode functionality

Monthly POS fee:
  • $69 for base plan.
  • $25 for gift cards feature.
  • $50 for online ordering feature.
  • $99 for loyalty features or marketing features.
  • $229 for reservations feature.
Hardware used: iPad.
KDS cost: Quote-based.
Hardware cost: Quote-based.
Why we like it: Although TouchBistro is less transparent with its pricing than most of its competitors, its restaurant-specific POS solution stands out for its ability to continue most restaurant operations even during a temporary internet outage. Many POS systems today have some form of an offline mode, but while most other providers only enable you to continue taking payments while offline, TouchBistro’s system also allows you to continue sending orders to the KDS and printing tickets in the kitchen, among other offline capabilities, so you can largely continue business as usual. Note that additional costs may be involved in the setup and/or operation of the locally installed connection that enables this offline functionality. Read our full TouchBistro review.

What a kitchen display system does

A KDS streamlines order management for food service businesses. Traditionally, much of this process has been manual. Here’s how a kitchen display system typically automates things.
  • An order is placed electronically. When a server inputs an order, it is routed to a digital display in the kitchen. Without a KDS, inputting a customer order would likely lead to the point-of-sale system printing a small receipt-like ticket in the kitchen.
  • The order is routed automatically. With paper tickets, someone will have to manually organize and prioritize orders to ensure a table gets all its food together. But a KDS can route various components of an order to the appropriate place (the grill or the fry station, for example), if a business has multiple screens.
  • Dishes are automatically prioritized. Based on expected prep time, a KDS can also properly pace the start time for each dish on an order. If the prompts are followed, the various dishes on an order will be completed at the right time.
  • Staff can access details easily. Recipe details and photos can appear on the screen. The KDS can also clearly display order substitutions or allergy alerts, for instance.
  • Staff can make notifications or changes automatically. With a ticket system, updated or modified orders may require a new ticket or a manager, cook or chef to manually change the current one. With a KDS, staff receive an alert if an order changes or is behind schedule. Staff, and in some cases customers, can also receive an alert when food is ready.
  • You can analyze the data. The system collects and compiles data, like average cook time, into reports.
A KDS typically is a flat-screen monitor, often mounted to a wall at eye level in the kitchen. Some kitchens have monitors at multiple locations, although one is sufficient for many. The monitors usually have touch screens, though some have a separate input device, such as a keypad. A KDS might run on a standard tablet, such as an iPad; others are designed and built using proprietary hardware.

Benefits of using a kitchen display system

The benefits of a KDS boil down to two things: Replacing and improving paper-based processes, and providing new capabilities.
  • Everything’s digital. No more lost, torn or burned tickets. Plus, the reduction in paper alone can often lead to serious savings.
  • It centralizes information. Having a single source of information everyone can access can help avoid miscommunications, bypassing the need to rely on verbal or handwritten updates to orders. You can also consolidate knowledge that might currently exist with a few longer-tenured employees, which can help shorten the time needed to train new employees in a high-turnover environment.
  • Difficult tasks are automated. Complex tasks such as dish sequencing and timing tickets — things once done by hand — are now completed automatically, instantly and accurately.
  • It can make analysis easier. A KDS can also use the data generated over time and create reports. These reports can help your business become more efficient. For example, you’ll be able to see if it’s taking longer than expected to get certain dishes out of the kitchen, or if certain days or times see drops in performance.

When a KDS might not make sense

Using a kitchen display system can benefit many types of restaurants. But it might not make as much sense if:
  • Your KDS options are limited by your point-of-sale system. If you don’t like the choices available, you might prefer to stick with paper (or look at other restaurant POS systems).
  • Your kitchen doesn’t have a good place to mount a KDS. In addition, the hardware might not suit your needs; some KDS setups operate exclusively on a touch screen, which could be difficult to use in some environments.
  • You’re worried about investing in a KDS. A KDS will cost not only money, but also time to train employees on the new system. While these drawbacks are temporary, you’ll still want to make sure your restaurant can afford them.

How to get started with a KDS

If you use a newer, cloud-based POS, such as Toast, your choice of kitchen display system might be limited to a proprietary option from that company. Questions to ask include:
  • Is the hardware included, or do you supply your own?
  • Does the company supply or recommend mounting hardware?
  • What are the costs? Many of these systems use subscription pricing.
  • What would starting small look like, e.g., could you set up a KDS only in the central hub of your kitchen, likely where the printer is now? In what ways could you grow into the system?
  • What types of reports can the KDS generate?
If you use an older POS system, check with the manufacturer to see what options are available.
Last updated on May 30, 2023