Kitchen Display System (KDS)

Compass DigitalCanada
2023 People’s Choice Award
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Voting closes at 23:59 EST (EST time: UTC-5) on 5 May 2023.


Production / Professional


Michael Stone, Eivan Ramos, Derek Siew


The Kitchen Display System (KDS) is an iPad-based application that helps busy commercial kitchens across North America sort, prioritize, and fulfill mobile orders.

Typically located in Universities, Hospitals, and Commercial Spaces, these kitchens are extremely busy and chaotic, with high meal processing volumes and orders being placed in person and via mobile applications simultaneously. These kitchens are all unique, and many have a variety of vendor stations operated by different chefs and sous chefs, requiring clear instructions for meal preparation and order details.

The KDS is designed to help kitchen staff distribute and regulate workload, ensuring a healthy throughput in order fulfillment. By clearly and ergonomically presenting detailed meal specifications on screen or a printed chit, KDS facilitates the fastest eye-hand coordination in food assembly. Moreover, the system allows kitchen staff to filter orders by time, meal & ingredient type, guest, and vendor station. It also keeps track of order timing using a color-coding system that lets chefs know how much time is left to prepare each order. This allows cooks to deliver food faster and more accurately, resulting in shortened wait times for customers and increased efficiency in the kitchen.

Kitchen staff members are often overlooked when it comes to digital products. However, Compass Digital believes that designing products specifically for them can significantly impact kitchen efficiency, the customer experience, and the business as a whole. KDS seamlessly integrates with the hectic kitchen environment to improve the experience of both operators and customers.

Project Description

The Kitchen Display System (KDS) is an iPad-based application, intended for the Food and Hospitality industry, with an immediately addressable market of over 13,500 professional kitchens that Compass Group operates across North America. With extremely low operating costs, requiring a handful of iPads and the App in each Café, KDS provides an efficient solution for streamlining kitchen operations across Universities, Hospitals, Corporate Settings and beyond.

KDS was specifically designed for professional kitchen staff, such as sous chefs and cooks, but it’s also used by expeditors, delivery staff, and restaurant managers in large professional kitchens, marketplaces, and cafeterias.

Since commercial kitchens may have multiple vendors operating on site, with numerous orders coming in through mobile devices and in person, choosing the sequence and speed of order processing is crucial. This can be difficult in a busy kitchen environment, requiring a high degree of multitasking, coordination, attention to detail, and time management. Additional factors include managing customers’ meal customization preferences, ingredient availability, human error, and staffing challenges.

The KDS provides a solution by arranging incoming orders in a priority sequence, based on the time needed to prepare a meal and the time customers choose to receive their order. Kitchen staff can customize how they view incoming orders, search for orders, filter by ingredient and meal type, and the time an order needs to be served. The system also provides an option to print chits with detailed meal ingredients for each order.

The ingredient layout on both the screen and printed chits enables staff to prepare orders accurately and ensure food quality. KDS helps kitchen staff be more organized while preparing food faster and having visibility to incoming orders. This improves kitchen throughput by optimizing efficiency, operator coordination, and momentum.

As a result, users can serve more guests and make fewer mistakes. On the customer side, guests enjoy a high degree of accuracy in their orders, even when making special requests, and they can pinpoint the time when they wish to start eating. The system brings much-needed automation to chaotic kitchen environments and processes.

Moreover, operators can adjust their supply purchasing accordingly by tracking ordering patterns over time. This can lead to significantly reducing food waste caused by spoiled ingredients. Having the ability to filter orders by type also allows chefs to prepare similar items simultaneously, increasing efficiency in the kitchen, and reducing the energy used to operate appliances.

During the design process, Compass Digital Designers and Product Managers worked in the kitchens to fully immerse in using the software while preparing and serving food. Understanding the pressures of multi-tasking during peak hours and the UX implications with greasy fingers and using an iPad. The team conducted usability testing at various stages during the design and development process. Before releasing the KDS to a broader user group, additional usability testing was conducted at select kitchens to evaluate the product in a real-time environment. Since launching KDS, the team has established a continuous communication loop with kitchen operators to continue iterating on the experience.


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