|Featured POS Software Vendors|
Merchant Maverick's Rating: (3.5 out of 5)
Last Updated: January 28th, 2013.
Headquartered in Albuquerque, New Mexico, POSLavu is the joint child of founders Andy Lim and Corey Fiala who partnered to create an intuitive hospitality industry POS app that integrates cutting edge cloud computing, wireless mobility and multi-touch devices in a software package designed for the global restaurant market.
The software operates on the iPad and iPhone and is designed for a wireless Apple-centric hardware setup. Bars, cafes, food-trucks, and restaurants can all benefit from the way the sleek app eliminates traditional point of sale hassles such as paper tickets, expensive register setups, and confusing menu configurations. One of the greatest advantages of POSLavu is the new addition of LavuLite, which is a low-cost POS option for small businesses that don't need more than one processing terminal. In the past small cafes, pubs and mobile food-trucks may have been barred access to the type of technology that Lavu offers because of the cost. LavuLite changes the game for these small business owners.
As a relatively new company, POSLavu is still in the process of maturing and smoothing out the software kinks that come with new technology like wireless cloud computing. However, their initial foray into the POS market indicates that they aren't going anywhere. POSLavu has been translated into 18 different languages and has the capability to be translated into many more. Lavu users can be found across the United States, Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East.
POSLavu aims to be a one-stop shop for every aspect of the restaurant experience. Customers enter a restaurant and are seated according to mobile iPad table charts that track guest counts and seating assignments. Servers and wait staff can enter orders directly into their iPad, iPhone or iPod touch and the orders are wirelessly sent to the kitchen. Payment can also be processed tableside with iPad credit card swipes. Reports can be accessed in real-time from any location in the world. All of these capabilities come together in a downloadable app that is intended to make life easier for staff and customers alike.
Albuquerque, New Mexico.
All Lavu plans are no contract and include unlimited users and free software updates. The POSLavu Client App is downloadable for free and can be simultaneously used on as many iPods/iPhones as each plan supports. Lavu offers a free 14-day trial on all accounts.
- Lavu Lite - License is free, hosting fees are $39/month, up to 1 iPad terminal.
- Lavu Gold - License is $1495, hosting fees are $49.95/month, up to 2 iPad terminals and 10 iPod/iPhones.
- Lavu Platinum - License is $3495, hosting fees are $99.95/month, up to 10 iPad terminals and unlimited iPods/iPhones.
Web-Based or Locally-Installed:
The Lavu POS is cloud-based, with the option for a local server backup system (see "Product Basics" for more info).
POSLavu is a software system specifically designed for the restaurant industry. From coffee shops and food trucks, to bars and and full-service restaurants, Lavu can be customized for any business with a menu. The Lavu ToGo app offers Gold and Platinum level users an additional support interface for online ordering and takeaway options.
Specific Size of Business:
The Lavu software features are intended to support everything from small coffee shops to large-fine dining establishments. The system can be scaled according to the size and needs of the business. Although the Lavu website states that they can handle multi-location accounts and corporate level clients, they do not offer a cumulative reporting function for multiple locations at this point, which could be a drawback for larger chains.
Ease of Use/User Friendly:
Visually the Lavu POS system has a sleek, user-friendly interface. Both the front and back ends feature an attractive black and green layout that has all you would expect from modern software--a clean design template, customizable options, intuitive navigation, and a small learning curve. One of the greatest user-friendly benefits of the POSLavu is the fact that the cloud-based back end can be accessed in real-time from any location with nearly any device (Mac or Windows). This is a terrific feature for owners wanting to keep tabs on reports and inventory while they are off-site.
Hardware/Operating System Required:
The POSLavu software is designed for Apple iPads, but the front end POSLavu Client app can also be installed on the iPod Touch and iPhones with iOS 5.1 or later. While the front end POS software is optimized for Apple wireless hardware, the remote back end office is cloud based and can be accessed with nearly any wireless device, Windows or Mac.
Because Lavu is a software-only product they do not offer any hardware. However, they do recommend an Apple based wireless setup. Their website states that other wireless products can be used, but not all configurations have been tested. You're probably best off sticking with Apple components for your hardware setup. Lavu is partnered with Zephyr Hardware, which provides all the hardware you need to pair with your POS software.
According to Lavu, the hardware setup is simple enough that it can be completed without onsite support if you have a tech-savvy person on staff. If you go the self-installation route, Lavu offers one hour of phone support for setup and configuration. If you don't feel comfortable managing the setup yourself, they recommend getting hardware consultation and onsite installation support through an outside Certified Distributor, which comes with its own set of costs. Certified Lavu Distributors are located in most major U.S. cities and in several global metropolitan areas.
Zephyr Hardware recommends the following options for Lavu-compatible hardware:
- iPad/iPod Touch - iPad 2 with Wi-Fi 16GB, iPad Mini with Wi-Fi 16GB, and iPod Touch 16GB. These range from $199 to $399.
- Credit Card Swipes - Magtek iDynamo Credit Card Reader, Linea-pro 4 Mag-Stripe Reader, and Blue Bamboo: Bluetooth Printer with Card Reader for iOS. These card readers range in price from $150 to $365.
- Wired Printers - Star Micronics: SP742 Ethernet and Star Micronics: TSP654 Ethernet. These range from $295 to $315.
- Wireless Printers - Star Micronics: TSP654 USB and Star Micronics: SP742 USB. These range from $223 to $255.
- Cash Drawers - Any of the Lavu-friendly APG Cash Drawers ranging in price from $110-$130.
- Wall Mounts -Archelon Exo -iPad Stand Wall Mount and iSkidz iPad Display -Vesa. These range from $179 to $200.
- Table Mounts - Archelon Exo -iPad Stand, iTab Pro POS -iPad Stand, iTab Pro POS Alpha -Heavy Duty iPad Stand, iSkidz iPad Display -Flipper, and iSkidz iPad Display -Counter. These range in price from $179 to $299.
Lavu's strength lies in the fact that it is a POS specifically designed with the hospitality industry in mind. The software deliberately sidesteps bulky hardware, confusing interfaces with zillions of colored buttons, and antiquated paper ticket systems. The cloud-based system is web-based and mobile, which means staff can take orders and process payments tableside and anywhere else within Wi-Fi range. The mobility extends off-site too; those who have access to the back end Admin Control Panel can edit the menu from New York, even if their restaurant is in L.A.
Because it is cloud-based, POSLavu requires a constant wireless network and broadband internet connection. Recognizing the problems that quickly arise when an internet connection is lost, Lavu offers the Lavu Local Server (LLS) which acts as an in-house backup during outages. After the connection is regained, the Mac Mini server automatically uploads and syncs all sales data accumulated during the outage. The in-house server also improves system performance and connection speeds. Note that during an internet outage credit cards cannot be processed, even with the Lavu Local Server.
Setting up shop with POSLavu is pretty straightforward once you have established which level of service is right for you (LavuLite, Gold Lavu, or Platinum Lavu). Simply download the POSLavu app on your iPad or iPhone and sign up for the license subscription. After the signup process, you will have instant access to the web-based back end where you can start designing your menu.
POSLavu is divided into two parts--the front end POS app that staff uses to take orders and process payments and the back end Admin Control Panel where management can edit menus, monitor inventory and create reports. Access to the front end requires a four digit PIN unique to each employee. Front end users can clock in, create orders or tabs, modify menu items, split checks, process payments and tips, and email receipts among other tasks. The back end requires a username and password, and employee access can be restricted or extended on an individual basis as needed. The back end Admin Control Panel is divided into six primary sections: Menu, Layout, Inventory Settings, Reports and Assistance. Clicking on any of these tabs brings up further options, which are easily navigable. For example, selecting the Settings tab will allow you to manage your printers, edit users, integrate credit cards, and set discount types.
Essentially, POSLavu is equipped to manage every piece of the restaurant experience: customers are seated using the table management and seat position features; orders are taken and modified and then remotely sent to the kitchen printer; from there the orders are prepared and the inventory is appropriately adjusted; and payment can be taken tableside and receipts can be emailed to the customer. All of these transactions can be monitored and viewed in real-time reports from any location.
Because POSLavu is specifically designed for the hospitality industry, the product features listed below are organized a bit differently than other reviews on Merchant Maverick.
- Taking Orders:
- Choose between Table, Tab and Quick Serve layouts depending on your service needs.
- Use the app to assign customer receipts and kitchen orders to a specific printer.
- Add notes to every order.
- Combine multiple orders while maintaining separate checks.
- Advanced print queue feature that monitors kitchen print jobs and creates printer alerts for increased reliability.
- Browse through voided orders from the front end.
- Table Management:
- Specific multi-room table layout.
- Assign both seat and course numbers.
- Course/Menu Management:
- Create custom discounts for specific tabs or items.
- Enable forced modifiers that prompt the customer to choose a pre-defined menu option (i.e. Rare, Medium, Well-done).
- Utilize optional modifiers such as "add onions."
- Add secondary detours that are activated when a customer selects a forced modifier option (i.e. Salad > Salad dressing).
- Divide your menu into multiple groups (i.e. Sides, Entrees, Desserts).
- Specify minimum access level for each discount type.
- Create forced modifiers for specific quantities (i.e. 60 tamales).
- Customer email tracking.
- Standardized, exportable reports.
- Track number of guests for any selected time periods.
- Filter front-end open/closed orders by server.
- Employee Management:
- Track employee hours with the time card feature.
- Employees can clock in and out from the iPad app.
- Calculate employee overtime or double time based on tracked daily, weekly, holiday hours.
- No limit on number of staff.
- Every staff member has his or her own unique login information.
- Inventory Management:
- Inventory can be managed from the remote back end office.
- Menu items can be linked to ingredients and changes are reflected in the inventory when a menu item is ordered.
- Track inventory stock and costs.
- Taking Payment:
- Easily create split checks for divided payments.
- Assign split checks by seat number.
- Enter tip amounts before settling a credit card batch.
- Create custom payment types and assign payment type to individual orders.
- Calculate both gratuity and tax on order subtotal without stacking.
- Cash management:
- Track incoming and outgoing cash flow for non-sale items, such as petty cash, paying the band, etc.
- All payment gateways are fully PCI compliant and secure.
- No handling of sensitive, unencrypted data.
Lavu has developed several add-on apps that have different capabilities and more are reportedly in the works.
- Lavu Pilot - Lavu Pilot is a free iPhone app that allows you to view and monitor POS data in real-time. View reports from today, yesterday, 7 days, and 30 days ago. Reports range from average revenue per guest to order counts.
- POSLavu in Any Language - POSLavu is intended to be a global venture and the Lavu developers have translated the app into 18 languages. If you don't see the language you need, you can translate the app using the "Dictionary" function.
- KDS Lavu - KDS Lavu is a kitchen display system designed to completely eliminate printed kitchen tickets. The interactive iPad displays are connected to the POSLavu system and can be further displayed on wireless TV monitors. KDS features include closed order tracking, real time communication, and late order notifications, among others.
- Lavu toGO - Lavu toGo is an add-on interface designed to allow customers to browse your online menu and place to-go orders for pickup. Once a customer has placed an order it is sent to the kitchen and completed. Although the customer email is kept on file for promotional purposes, customer order data is not stored on file. This option is reportedly in the works.
Compatible Credit Card Processors:
Note that POSLavu recently released the pared down LavuLite on December 27, 2012 for businesses that only require a single terminal. LavuLite has no upfront licensing fee, no transaction fees and a processing rate of 1.95% through the Lavu integration with Sail by Verifone.
Navigating the various rates and fees from different providers can be difficult. If you would like help negotiating the best rates from these processors, give us a shout.
Customer Service/Technical Support:
POSLavu is unclear about the level of support they offer their customers. There is no support plan available for purchase and their website directs those looking for assistance and support to the list of POSLavu Certified Distributors, although there is also a Lavu telephone support line, and a support email contact. POSLavu clients report that while the Lavu staff does not always answer the phone, online help-tickets and telephone inquiries usually receive a quick response from friendly and helpful staff members.
The primary support center is in the form of the community forum, which features user forums, guides, and a help center. Questions in the forum seem to be answered by Lavu staff members quickly and thoroughly. That being said, the forum and help center are not fully developed. Many pages lead to messages that say, "We haven't gotten to this quite yet."
The Lavu Youtube platform is well developed, with over 27 comprehensive videos on everything from basic settings to printer setups. Lavu also has a blog, Facebook and Twitter, which are more promotional in nature, as opposed to support-based.
POSLavu hasn't been around long and there are definitely some bugs and development issues that the new kid on the block hasn't worked out yet. Here are some of the most significant concerns to take into consideration with Lavu:
- App Crashes - One of the biggest complaints is the lack of app stability, especially during busy periods when a high volume of orders and split checks are being entered into the system. Because the POSLavu software is cloud-based instead of locally installed, every iPad terminal and mobile device is completely dependent on the wireless app. Numerous POSLavu clients have described the utter frustration they experience when the system freezes or the app crashes. Customers become angry and have to be consoled with complimentary items, which cuts into profits on multiple levels. Aside, from the financial loss on free items, angry customers are unlikely to be return customers. Dealing with upset patrons during a rush period is also extremely stressful for staff.
- Printer Connectivity Issues - Many POSLavu clients also expressed frustration with the wireless printer system. Even with the recommended Apple hardware setup, there are consistent complaints of orders that never make it to the kitchen or final tabs that are missing item charges. This is a problem for a company that promotes the advantages of switching to an all-wireless POS system. Again, lost orders equal hungry and upset customers. Lost items on receipts equal loss of revenue for the business.
- Issues with Split Checks - POSLavu supports split checks, but the current interface tends to get overloaded with separate checks of 10 or more. Some POSLavu users report that their entire system crashes while processing large parties. Lavu staff has addressed the problem on their community forum and they claim that they are in the process of developing a fix for this issue. At this point they recommend breaking large parties down into two or three orders and then creating multiple split checks within those orders, which is more work for the staff.
- Simplistic Inventory Design - POSLavu does offer an inventory function, but it is very basic and may not be able to handle the needs of larger operations. Some business owners say that they end up exporting the data reports to external inventory monitoring programs. For smaller businesses where one item comes in and one goes out (i.e. beer, hot dog bun, apple) the inventory system is fine, but the software cannot handle a more nuanced analysis where the incoming product is different that the outgoing menu item (i.e. ground beef vs. hamburgers sold).
- No Customer Database - The lack of a centralized database for customer contact data is problematic for businesses that incorporate delivery or to-go options in their restaurant structure because it means that customer information has to be re-entered every time they order. This isn't great for the business or the customer. It also limits the amount of marketing data that can be gathered from each customer. The LavuToGo app does collect customer e-mail addresses for promotional purposes, but data collection ends there. There are rumors that a customer database is in the development works.
- Lack of Information - The Lavu website is pretty bare bones. I can see potential clients having difficulty assessing whether or not the software would meet their needs because there is nothing beyond a basic list of features to go on. Sure, they can test-drive the app and comb through the forums, but it would be helpful if the POSLavu features and capabilities were covered more thoroughly right up front.
Although Lavu has some significant development issues to address, they also have several factors working in their favor. Here are some of the benefits of going with the POSLavu software:
- Ease of Use - This software is ridiculously easy to use and requires almost zero training for new employees. Anyone that knows how to use a smartphone or a tablet will be able to master the interface intuitively. Gone are the days of complicated programming and menu headaches.
- Increased Patron Support - The POSLavu software allows your staff to spend far more time interacting with customers on the floor. Because every part of the restaurant experience can be managed tableside--from order taking to payment processing--staff has more resources to devote to meeting customer needs. The wireless system also shortens the time it takes for an order to translate into a meal on the table, which is good news for your customers and your business.
- The "Wow Factor" - Once they realize that you're not checking your Facebook on the job, customers love the idea of the iPad system. The sleek, sexy design packs a punch that, quite frankly, makes your business look cool. Granted the novelty of the "wow factor" may wear off as more business switch to cloud-based iPad POS systems, but at the moment the POSLavu setup is cutting edge.
- Lower Cost - Even with hardware, POSLavu is a relatively low-cost investment compared to other large-scale POS systems. Also, Lavu operates on a monthly hosting plan that does not require a contract. Both of these factors make POSLavu a potentially good fit for startups and smaller operations, especially with the recent introduction of LavuLite.
- Good support - While some Lavu clients say they can't always reach support right away, they are also quick to say that the Lavu support responds to inquiries quickly. Lavu support is described as friendly, knowledgeable, and open to finding solutions.
With all factors combined, POSLavu may be a great option for some businesses and a major risk for others. Small operations could really work the low entry costs to their advantage--LavuLite doesn't even require a license, just the monthly cloud hosting fees of $39/month. Similarly, the Lavu Gold and Platinum licenses are $1495 and $3495 respectively, which isn't too big of a hit in the grand scheme of things. The recommended Apple hardware is also relatively cost-effective: compare a single iPad with the cost of a bulky, full-scale cash register.
If your restaurant or bar needs are fairly straightforward, then POSLavu could be a great cost-effective solution for you. I'm specifically thinking about coffee shops, small to mid-size restaurants, food trucks, and small bars. However if you have a larger operation or multiple locations with high sales volumes, I would really establish the needs of your restaurant to see if Lavu can handle what you bring. A sleek design isn't going to cut it if your app overloads during a busy happy hour.
That being said, POSLavu is relatively new and it appears that they are putting a lot of resources into fixing bugs, improving stability, and developing new features that clients request. The POSLavu of 2013 may look a lot different than the POSLavu of 2014. In fact, Lavu just rolled out POSLavu 2.1 on January 23, 2013, which is a major update designed to introduce new features and address software issues. Based on staff commentary in the forums, POSLavu is a growing company that really wants to create a solid product. In the future they could be major competitor among cloud-based POS systems, but how quickly they will be able to mature is anyone's guess.
My recommendation to you is to use the free trial to your advantage and take POSLavu for a spin. If you're in the market for a cost-effective POS system with basic features, mobility, and a modern setup then this could be a dream come true. If you require something more complex, then proceed with a bit of caution.