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To Print or To Display: The Kitchen Equipment Dilemma

kitchen display system

There are plenty of technologies designed to help make kitchen operations more efficient. Two of these include kitchen printers and kitchen display systems. Although 37% of restaurants say that kitchen display systems are an important technology, some operations still opt for printers or a combination of printers and screens. 

Ultimately, the technology that you choose should strike a balance between your chef’s preferences, the needs of your guests, and your budget. 

Let’s review the two solutions in more detail and help you decide which may be a better fit for you. 

What are kitchen printers and how do they work?

Kitchen printers are effectively receipt printers – printing selected items on 1 or 2-ply paper. These printers usually use methods other than thermal printing in order to produce their chits. Typically, your POS will be set up to route items to specific printers. For example, liquor items would go to a bar printer, hot items may go to a “hot” station printer, and salad or cold items may go to a “cold” station printer. Printers are usually hard-wired, but may also support Wifi. 

Here’s the process: order rung in on POS > order sent to printer > chit prints with order on it

Some locations only have one kitchen printer in the back of the house that will display all items for every order. The quantity of printers truly depends on the size of the kitchen and the way the stations are set up. Smaller kitchens with less staff may not need dedicated printers at each station. Overall, kitchen printers have helped kitchens by eliminating the need for chefs to decipher handwriting, standardizing the format in which orders are received, and helping separate orders by station to keep staff organized and focused. They are often a very welcomed addition to any kitchen that is using pen and paper methods to track and manage orders.

What is a kitchen display system (KDS) and how do they work?

Kitchen display screens are visual representations of the orders that flow into the POS solution. They receive orders from the POS the same way printers do, but provide a wealth of information about item, courses, sides, and more. With a KDS, you are able to use colours to indicate order times, such as green if the order is new, yellow as the order is being prepared, and red as the order is due or overdue for being delivered based on the times you have programmed into the system.

Kitchen display systems are typically hard-wired and there are varying screen sizes available. 10”, 15”, and larger screens are supported with KDS, so you can truly pick the sizes that best accommodate your kitchen. They can be programmed similarly to printers, based on stations such as appetizers, mains, desserts, or other stations you may be supporting. 

The process with screens is very similar: order rung in on POS > order displayed on designated screen > order bumped by staff when complete

Kitchen display systems can also be programmed to contain recipe information and pictures, allow for more detailed analytics about order times, and can support both bump bars and touch screens in order to bump orders upon completion. Expo screens can also be used by chefs and expeditors in order to compile and prepare a full table’s order with each meal arranged to be delivered to its designated seat.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both solutions, which we will illustrate below.

Kitchen Printer Advantages:

  • Less expensive than kitchen display systems
  • Do not require much training
  • Minimal footprint in the kitchen

Kitchen Printer Disadvantages:

  • Do not provide detailed analytics
  • Chits can get lost or missed 
  • Paper needs to be replaced, if paper runs out, orders won’t print unless a back-up printer is identified to re-route orders to
  • Do not provide graphics or recipe information
  • Can be noisy while printing 

Kitchen Display System Advantages:

  • Detailed analytics on your orders
  • Paperless – less waste and more organized as no risk of losing paper
  • More accurate order tracking and timing
  • Can improve kitchen efficiency
  • Tech-forward kitchen experience
  • Provide substantially more information and lead to better kitchen and order management

Kitchen Display System Disadvantages:

  • Training (while usually minimal) is required to teach staff to bump orders and navigate the screen
  • Typically a larger initial investment is required as there is more hardware & networking required

Overall, selecting a KDS vs. kitchen printer is going to come down to personal preference, budget, and the experience you are looking to deliver. Have any questions about how these solutions work? Feel free to reach out to us today.

Shannon Moyes

Business Development Manager – Volanté Systems


Learn more about how Volanté can help your business.