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Lavu POS Review 2019: Features, Cost, Alternatives

Matthew Speiser

Staff Writer at Fundera
Matthew is a staff writer at Fundera. He has written extensively about ecommerce, marketing and sales, and payroll and HR solutions, but is particularly knowledgeable about merchant services. Matthew's writing has been published in Business Insider, The Fiscal Times, Best Company, and NJ.com, among others. Matthew was also a co-author for Startup Guide—a series of guidebooks designed to assist entrepreneurs in different cities around the world. He has a degree in journalism from the University of Delaware. Email: matthew.speiser@fundera.com.
Editorial Note: Fundera exists to help you make better business decisions. That’s why we make sure our editorial integrity isn’t influenced by our own business. The opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations in this article are those of our editorial team alone.

Lavu is a New Mexico-based restaurant point of sale (POS) provider that has become a very popular option for food service businesses since launching in 2010. According to information provided on its website, Lavu POS is currently used by businesses in 93 countries, and has processed 400 million transactions worth over $1.3 billion.

If you’re looking for a restaurant POS system, you’ve probably come across Lavu POS—it was one of the first POS systems ever to be available in the iOS app store. With over 300 available features, Lavu promises to modernize your restaurant, speed up service time, and minimize your mistakes. Let’s evaluate Lavu POS to see if it can make good on that promise, and if it can work for your food service business.

lavu posPhoto credit: Lavu

What Is Lavu POS?

Lavu POS is a cloud-hosted POS system, meaning it provides the software and compatible hardware needed to run restaurant transactions. Being cloud-based means you don’t have to worry about hosting your Lavu POS system. However, Lavu POS also offers a product called a Lavu Local Server, which allows you to locally host your system in case you ever lose internet connectivity.

Lavu’s definition of “restaurant” is broad. On their website they break down the solutions they offer for full-service restaurants, quick-service restaurants, food trucks, ice cream parlors, wineries, coffee shops, breweries, bars, and pizzerias, as well as restaurants with multiple locations and franchises.

To get started with Lavu POS, you’ll pick a pricing plan and download the Lavu POS app on your iPad or iPhone (Lavu is not available for Android devices). Note that Lavu also offers a 14-day free trial. When you first log into your account, you can work remotely with a Lavu customer support specialist to configure your system and connect to your POS hardware. You can also get on-site help from a licensed Lavu reseller in your area.

With your system ready to go, here is what you can expect when you start using Lavu POS.

Lavu POS: Capabilities

Here is everything you can do when using Lavu POS for your restaurant:

Payments

In October 2018 Lavu rolled out Lavu Pay, Lavu’s in-house payment processing system. With Lavu Pay you’ll be able to accept swipe, dip, and contactless payments from all major credit card providers. However, Lavu does not say what they charge in credit card processing fees. On their website, Lavu says customers should email them their last three months worth of credit card processing statements, and Lavu will show them how much they can save with Lavu Pay. This seems vague, and leads us to believe that credit card processing fees are determined on a case-by-case basis. Lavu Pay does feature PCI compliance, point-to-point encryption, and tokenization.

If Lavu Pay doesn’t interest you, Lavu POS also integrates with a variety of other payment processors, including Square, Worldpay, PayPal, and Heartland Payment Systems.

Hardware

Lavu sells hardware that is compatible with their software via the Shop.Lavu.com website. There are three starter kits available for purchase ranging in price from $399.99 to $1,499.99. The $399.99 option is known as the “Simple Bundle” and includes an iPad stand and card reader. The next level up is the “Quick Service Bundle” ($1,220.99) and comes with a stand, cash drawer, receipt printer, and card reader. The “Full Service Bundle” costs $1,499.99 and comes with everything included in the Quick Service Bundle plus a kitchen printer. All bundles come with a four hour menu setup and consultation.

Lavu also sells individual hardware pieces, including iPad stands, mounts, and enclosures, receipt printers, credit card readers that can accept swipe, dip, and contactless payment, cash drawers, barcode scanners, barcode label printers, and routers. You can also purchase the aforementioned Lavu Local Server and custom gift card packages.

On top of all that, Lavu sells digital menu boards that can be customized with your business’s branding. The menu boards make it possible to share pricing, nutritional information, and daily specials with your customers. The menus can be set to update over time to reflect breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus, and the entire system can operate offline. Lavu does not list pricing information for their digital menu boards on the website.

lavu posPhoto credit: Lavu

Ordering

Like many restaurant POS systems, Lavu POS supports tableside ordering. Simply bring your iPad to the table and record customer orders and add modifiers with a few taps on your POS’s virtual menu. Lavu POS has a “quick select” feature that allows you to keep the hottest items at the top of your screen for easy ordering (and as a reminder to push specials). Lavu’s “hold and fire” option allows you to assign different orders to be processed at different times (for scenarios where not everyone wants to be served at the same time).

The ordering screen also allows you to alternate between table (for restaurants), tab (for bars), and quick serve (for quick-service establishments) layouts depending on your service needs. You can combine orders while maintaining separate checks, or split checks in any way the customer requests. When it comes time to pay, tabs from the bar can be carried over and assigned to the bill, and the POS will suggest a gratuity amount. Receipts can be printed or emailed to customers.

For takeout and delivery, Lavu POS offers a few nifty add-on features. Lavu To Go is a software application that plugs into your restaurant website and works with your POS to track and process online orders. Customers can place an order on your website using Lavu To Go, pay for the order via your POS’s payment processor, and have the order routed directly to your kitchen.

If your restaurant offers delivery, you can use the Lavu Routing feature to create and assign routes for delivery drivers. The routing features works in conjunction with your customer relationship management software within your POS to create a route and determine time of delivery, which the customer can see from your website.

Lavu does not list pricing information for their Lavu To Go or Lavu Routing features on the website.

Menu Management

Lavu comes with all the menu customization features you’d want in a restaurant POS. Create menu groups, assign modifiers to specific menu items, and assign deals to certain items (i.e. Happy Hour specials). Lavu POS also has a “combo” feature, allowing you to create combination orders and assign them as a singular menu item (i.e. burger, soda, and fries). Plus, your menu synchronizes with your inventory database to keep track of stock levels.

Inventory Management

Speaking of inventory management, Lavu tracks your stock counts in real time so you always have an accurate idea of how much inventory you have left. You can also onboard your vendors and place purchase orders directly from your POS. You can even automate stock orders for whenever inventory is running low, transfer inventory between different locations, and communicate with your warehouse, all from your POS.

Floor Plan Management

Lavu POS provides an interface that allows you to customize the look of your floor plan to match your restaurant’s layout. The floor plan interface will keep track of open tables, open orders, and payment status, as well as the status of orders at each table.

Staff Management

Lavu POS allows your employees to clock in and out for shifts using ID numbers. You can also create schedules in the POS, assign roles and pay rates to specific employees, arrange custom permissions, allow for the trading of shifts between staff, and split up tips between staff members at the end of a shift.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Lavu POS maintains a CRM database that tracks your customer’s order history, contact information, and payment information (with their permission). Lavu also offers a loyalty program called Lavu Loyalty that allows customers to be issued a loyalty card and collect redeemable points on purchases. You can also offer customers gift cards that you purchase through Shop.Lavu.com. Lavu does not disclose the cost of the loyalty or gift card program on their website.

Reporting

Lavu generates all the standard reports that provide insight into your inventory and sales. You can also use a free iPhone app called Lavu Pilot to track data. From here you can view a variety of reports related to the performance of your restaurant. Some of the data you can track includes hourly and daily sales, labor costs, and top selling items. Data can also be split amongst different locations and tracked by timeframe.

Integrations and Add-Ons

We’ve already covered a lot of the add-on tools you can get with Lavu: Lavu Pilot, Lavu To Go, and Lavu Routing. There are two additional add-on tools restaurateurs will be interested in. We’ll go over them here.

lavu posPhoto credit: Lavu

Kitchen Display System

Lavu’s Kitchen Display System is an additional interface within your POS that reflects orders sent from the front of the house to the back of the house and tracks their status to ensure customers get their food on time. The interface is customizable and features a timer to track how long each order takes. The interface can be accessed from an iPad with the Lavu POS app, or integrated with Apple TV and cast onto large wireless monitors in the kitchen. Lavu does not list pricing information for their kitchen display system on their website.

lavu posPhoto credit: Lavu

Lavu Kiosk

Lavu Kiosk is a tool for quick-service restaurants that allows you to turn an iPad running the Lavu POS app into a self-serving kiosk. With the self-serving kiosk customers can browse the menu, add modifiers, and pay without any outside assistance. The menu can feature images, nutritional information, allergens, and other relevant information. Once an order is placed via the self-serving kiosk, the order can be routed directly to your kitchen display system or kitchen printer. Lavu does not list pricing information for the Lavu Kiosk on their website.

On top of these two add-ons, Lavu integrates with a variety of other third-party applications, including accounting tools, events management apps, gift and loyalty programs, and payment processors. See the full list of integrations in the Lavu app store.

Customer Service

Lavu offers 24/7 phone, email, and live chat support. There are also a wide variety of online resources users can leverage, including a knowledge base, community forum, and blog.

Lavu POS Price

Lavu POS offers three different pricing plans. Using the Lavu POS software on a single iPad costs $69 per month—billed on an annual basis. Lavu also offers multiple terminal and enterprise plans, but the pricing for these is quote-based and tailored to your restaurant’s needs. All plans come with all of the aforementioned features outside of the Lavu Kiosk, Lavu Kitchen Display System, Lavu To Go, Lavu Routing, Lavu’s digital menu boards, and Lavu’s loyalty and gift card programs.

The price for these additional pieces of software and hardware are not disclosed on the Lavu website, and are likely something you work out with your sales representative. On the software review website G2 Crowd, customers rank Lavu POS in the 35th percentile in terms of restaurant POS cost.

Lavu POS Pros

Lavu packs a lot into one platform. Here’s what we see as the benefits:

Hardware Selection

Looking through the Lavu hardware store, it’s hard to deny just how much POS hardware is compatible with Lavu. This can be huge for restaurateurs who already own compatible hardware, as they won’t have to pay for new products if they decide to migrate their system onto Lavu. It’s also nice that Lavu offers multiple hardware bundles, even if they aren’t the cheapest options we’ve seen.

Add-On Tools

Most restaurant POS systems charge extra for loyalty programs, digital menu boards, online ordering, delivery services, and user-facing kiosks—but few also offer all of these options to their customers. Lavu does that, meaning you get access to any and every additional tool you might need to help your business.

Lavu POS Cons

There is one aspect of Lavu that gives us pause:

Price Structure

Lavu offers some transparency in pricing, but not as much as we’d like to see relative to other merchant services providers we like. Also concerning is that you can purchase your product through Lavu resellers, which are similar to independent sales organizations. In the merchant services space, independent sales organizations have a reputation of not being transparent when it comes to pricing and fees. Our recommendation is to try and purchase your system directly from Lavu, and tread carefully when dealing with a reseller.

Lavu POS Reviews

Here are what customers who have used Lavu POS have to say about the product:

The ratings users give Lavu POS are middling. In positive reviews users say they find the platform easy to use. Other comments include praise for Lavu’s customer service and the Lavu Pilot app, which provides analytics on restaurant performance.

Negative reviews are more common. Here customers complain about how difficult it is to perform essential functions like modify orders, run reports, and review inventory. There is also frustration over the fact that Lavu is only available for iOS devices, and that there are often glitches and bugs whenever Lavu pushes out a new update to the software.

Lavu POS Alternatives

If you need a few options to compare with Lavu POS, start your search with these products:

TouchBistro POS

A bigger and more popular option than Lavu POS is TouchBistro, which is used by over 16,000 restaurants in more than 100 countries. What makes TouchBistro so popular is its flexibility to work with so many different restaurant types, and the fact that you can bundle your software and hardware costs into one monthly fee. Bundled prices start at $105. Unlike Lavu, TouchBistro receives high marks across all the major review websites.

Square for Restaurants

A cheaper option than both Lavu and TouchBistro is Square’s POS product for restaurants—Square for Restaurants. This service comes with fewer features than you’d get with other dedicated restaurant POS providers, but you do get a cheaper price ($60 per month), access to Square’s very popular POS hardware, and cheaper payment processing. For those who run very small food service businesses, this is a good pick.

Is Lavu POS Right for Your Business?

There are a lot of good products in the restaurant POS space, and Lavu is right there with them. It can do everything you would want a restaurant POS to do, and it packs in some nice add-on features to boot. The price structure and user reviews are where things get a little hairy. Our advice would be to do a free trial. If you fall in love with Lavu POS, great. If not, there are plenty of other restaurant POS systems to choose from.

Matthew Speiser

Staff Writer at Fundera
Matthew is a staff writer at Fundera. He has written extensively about ecommerce, marketing and sales, and payroll and HR solutions, but is particularly knowledgeable about merchant services. Matthew's writing has been published in Business Insider, The Fiscal Times, Best Company, and NJ.com, among others. Matthew was also a co-author for Startup Guide—a series of guidebooks designed to assist entrepreneurs in different cities around the world. He has a degree in journalism from the University of Delaware. Email: matthew.speiser@fundera.com.

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