Lightspeed Restaurant POS Review
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Lightspeed Restaurant is a cloud-based iPad POS system built solely for the foodservice industry and, like many of its rivals, can be a one-stop-shop for your POS needs if that’s what you’re looking for. It balances two seeming opposites (and quite well I might add), combining a comparatively complex, feature-rich POS back end with a deceptively simple structure and intuitive interface. Just saying that Lightspeed ticks all the standard boxes would be doing the system a disservice. Lightspeed Restaurant covers the basics, adds a range of custom options, and throws a good dollop of useful side functionality into the mix as well.
With its own payment platform and recent advances in mobile ordering, delivery, and tableside ordering, it’s keeping up with the times. It also has improved analytics, built-in loyalty, and eCommerce options. However, you’ll have to purchase add-ons on top of the upfront price to get some of those nifty bells and whistles.
With all of this extra functionality, you might think that Lightspeed Restaurant would be charging an arm and a leg for its system. When it comes to price, though, Lightspeed Restaurant trumps many of its competitors, at least for its basic package. Lightspeed has aimed the software squarely at small to medium-sized food establishments and has no qualms about letting people know that it is inexpensive compared to other solutions.
Premium Restaurant POS
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No credit card required
In short, Lightspeed Restaurant does have everything a restaurant needs, from integrated payments to an impressive assortment of integrations. It doesn’t do every facet of its software better than the rest of its competitors, but you’re also not going to be surprised to find a major gap after you’ve purchased the POS. If you need extremely in-depth inventory management or a foolproof offline mode, you may have issues with Lightspeed. Otherwise, it should almost certainly be on your shortlist.
Anyhow, let’s jump in and take a closer look at Lightspeed Restaurant POS.
Table of Contents
Lightspeed has altered its pricing structure, and, on the whole, the changes appear to be positive. There is still a basic plan that you can purchase with the nuts and bolts for $59 a month billed annually and $69 a month without a year-long contract with additional registers costing $34 a month. If you need more functionality than the basic plan provides, the company can hook you up with a quote. It also has custom pricing plans for multi-store ventures. There is a 14-day free trial available, which is extremely generous, featuring unlimited users and access without requiring credit card information. The basic plan features:
- One register
- Up to two printers
- Personalized onboarding
- 24/7 support
- Free updates
- Secure cloud backup
- Basic reporting
You can also purchase add-ons to your plan if necessary, depending on your restaurant’s needs. For $12 a month, you receive:
- Customer-facing display
- Kitchen Display System
- Advanced reporting
- Self-order table menu
Premium add-ons will set you back another $39 a month, but they include:
- Loyalty plus loyalty app
- Self-order kiosk
- Delivery integration
As you can see, Lightspeed has everything that small to large restaurants might need, but to access some of its best features, you’ll need to be willing to spend more. Merchants looking to use more than five registers can take advantage of Lightspeed’s Enterprise plan by scheduling a call and requesting a quote.
Cloud-Based Or Locally-Installed
All of Lightspeed Restaurant’s software is entirely web and app-based. You can access your back end through Lightspeed’s website on any device that can connect to the internet. When it comes to using your terminal, you will need to purchase an iPad and install the Lightspeed app. Lightspeed Restaurant also gives you the option to add on a piece of hardware called Lite Server. This device allows users to continue using Lightspeed Restaurant in the event of an internet outage. It will maintain a local database that continuously backs your data up to the Lightspeed servers. This method is less than ideal, however, as you need to make this additional purchase to have an offline mode, and it still does not give you the ability to process credit card payments.
Food retailers — from bar and coffee shop owners to restaurateurs — will be happy to know that Lightspeed Restaurant is more than capable of meeting their needs.
This POS is suitable for any restaurant setting, provided it satisfies the criteria outlined in the business-size section below. If you run a bar, you will have the ability to quickly send orders to the bartender, open tabs, split bills, and use a “quick-serve” screen for those busy periods. The numerous permission settings (explained in more detail below) might also prove useful. If you own a café, bakery, or food truck, you will have all the functionality required to take immediate orders and quickly process card payments. It has also bolstered its kiosk and self-serve options if that’s something you’re looking to utilize in your restaurant. You can also tie in records of raw ingredients to specific products for real-time raw goods tracking (again, explained in more detail below). Finally, takeout and delivery businesses will get access to all of the features listed above, plus the ability to take card payments on the road.
Specific Size Of Business
Lightspeed Restaurant appeals to small to medium-sized businesses. Lightspeed best operates within the one to five register range, though it can handle more if necessary, including full-sized restaurants and franchises. If you have multiple locations, you can work with the company to create a custom plan tailored to your needs.
Hardware & Operating System Requirements
The Lightspeed Restaurant app requires iOS 12.2 or later to function, and the back end is accessible through any browser with an internet connection. It is compatible with iPhones, iPads, and iPod touch, but it should be noted that using the app on an iPhone or iPod touch will leave you with limited features. I’m told that it is best to use those two devices for clocking in and fast table ordering.
Lightspeed offers a convenient iPad starter kit that features the following:
- LAN receipt printer
- Cash drawer
- Lite Server
- Lightspeed iPad stand
- Kitchen printer
You can also purchase all sorts of items, from receipt printers to kitchen buzzers à la carte from the company’s website. For more information about the peripheral hardware brands and models with which Lightspeed Restaurant is compatible, you can visit the company’s website. For pricing information, you will need to get in touch with Lightspeed directly.
Ease Of Use
The first thing I was struck by in using Lightspeed Restaurant for the first time was the simplicity of the interface. It’s both visually and practically pleasing. Upon logging into the back office, I was taken to an overview page and asked to add my choice of widgets to my dashboard. (Available widgets include pie charts and graphs with information about revenue, receipts, payment amounts, and daily reports.) I like the fact that you can choose what information you want to see when you first open up your screen and that it is easy to digest visually.
From the dashboard screen, you can view several training videos. These videos guide you through all the steps involved in getting your POS system operational as well as describing some of the features intended for occasional use. Along the top of the gray screen, you can select reports, users, products, floors, devices, printers, or payments. In the top right-hand corner of the screen, you will find a picture of a little bot that takes you to your account information. To the right is a button that will lead you to your settings. Finally, a question mark button to the right will take you to the support dashboard.
The front end of your Restaurant requires you and your staff to log in. You will then go to your customizable floor plan. At the top of the screen, users will see three buttons: “link tables,” “extra,” and “edit.” The “extra” button gives the following options: “reload,” “reservation,” “open cash drawer,” and “open receipt using ID.”
Once you’ve set up your Restaurant and are ready to take an order, waitstaff will select the table they want to help. After they select the number of customers at the table, they are ready to take their order (see photo below). Your menu can be broken up into different sections (drinks, starters, and mains, for example). You can add discounts from this screen, select meal courses, send your order to the bar printer or the kitchen printer, and also go to the payments screen.
Payments can be split in a variety of ways, and waitstaff can email or print customer receipts as well.
I did find it slightly annoying that any time I wanted to go from the front end of my system to the back end, I had to re-login, but that could be my inherent impatience showing. Requiring users to log in before they have access to the back end is a good thing and can help protect your more sensitive information.
Another plus when it comes to Lightspeed is that there is a design consistency amongst the different platforms. The fact that the desktop, iPad, iPod touch, and iPhone interfaces look the same helps alleviate the learning curve enormously. Some have criticized Lightspeed’s approach as “too minimal,” but that’s not a concern to which I give much weight. If you can combine good functionality with a minimal, easy-to-use interface, then I fail to see the problem.
Lightspeed Restaurant features all the basic functions you would expect from a POS, so instead of going on forever about the obvious stuff, I’ll just cover the elements that separate Lightspeed from the pack:
- Employee Management: You can change the “visibility” of employees, determining whether or not they will appear in your app, which is especially useful for seasonal or part-time staff. Staff can be assigned as either managers or employees, and Lightspeed takes an all-or-nothing approach when it comes to permissions. Managers have access to the entire front and back end, and all employees only have access to the front end of the app. Employees can be further broken down into categories (waitstaff, bartenders, cashiers, cooks, etc.). You can also assign your staff to specific floors and tables and variations thereof. There are extensive permission-setting capabilities linked to predefined groups. For example, not only can you add an employee to the “Bartender” group (or a custom group that you have created) by defining their role in the “User” section but also (and this is where Lightspeed really shines) comprehensively define the permissions associated with that group — access to registers, voiding orders, adding tips, etc. Another example is the ability to limit a staff role, so they only have access to one feature, such as the time clock.
- Product Management: Setting up your menu is effortless. In the “Product” section (which is initially subcategorized into “Aperitif,” “Starter,” and “Main” but fully customizable), you can easily add individual products and associate them with a unique kitchen name, an ID, and even a picture if you want to. One nice addition is the ability to set specific prices and tax rates for delivery and takeout dishes. Discounts, service fees, and combos can also be quickly added here. You can effortlessly create and change modifiers through the “Modifier section,” where you can additionally set a max/min limit.
- Raw Ingredient Tracking: You will be able to tie in your “Ingredients” tab, which allows you to create a record of all your raw ingredients (most unit measurements, such as grams and liters, included), with specific products in the “Products” area. What this means is that the software will automatically keep track of all your raw ingredients based on specific dishes sold. This function also comes in handy when waitstaff is taking an order, and you’ve run out of a particular ingredient. When they try to send their order through, they will be alerted that the menu item is no longer available and prompted to help the customer make another selection. Lightspeed Restaurant’s integration with MarketMan allows users to track their raw ingredients and also allows for purchase order management capabilities.
- Mobile Ordering: Lightspeed has added this functionality, which is one of the hottest trends in the POS world. Send orders to the kitchen directly from the table or bar while giving your customers flexibility in their payment options. You also have the option to allow customers to place orders directly on an iPad at their table to cut down on ticket times and reduce errors.
- Modifiers: This function works seamlessly, as you can punch in special requests directly into the system. Whether it’s forced modifiers or important changes, such as allergy restrictions, a simple click of the button sends custom orders to the kitchen that are easy to read.
- Timed Events: With Lightspeed Restaurant, you also have the option to include what are called “Timed Events.” (This feature is still in beta mode, but so far, it works like a dream.) Timed Events allow you to set promotions and offers to run for a specific time or on certain days; it works great for “20%-Off Tuesdays” and “Half-Price Fridays” (I’m sure you get the idea). If that’s not enough, you can also set multiple offers to run at the same time, setting which one has priority. So you could have 20%-off on Tuesdays and adjust the discount to 30% if the customer buys between 4 and 5 o’clock.
- Kitchen Name Printing: This feature is especially helpful if your kitchen staff happens to speak a different language than the one used in your menu. You can input the order as it appears on the menu, and when you send it to the kitchen, it will print in the language of your choice. This feature is also beneficial if your restaurant has a bunch of different names for menu items. If, for instance, you have a menu item called “the Senior Breakfast Special,” you can have the order print out in the kitchen as “two eggs and a side of bacon.”
- Loyalty: Easily add customer information into your system, allowing you the ability to track their purchase orders and add credit to their account. See when reservations have been made and assign customers to their preferred tables.
- Delivery: Lightspeed offers simple delivery integration with its advanced package with a simple, consolidated format that makes large numbers of orders easy to sort. It partners with UberEats, Foodora, and DoorDash. It also allows you to create promo codes and a simple interface for customers.
- Menu Building: Lightspeed’s menu building functionality is one of the best I’ve seen. You can create a simple menu in minutes and on any device. It’s also simple to make changes to items, immediately informing servers of changes. One of the great things about mobile iPad systems is the ability to work tableside. Lightspeed Restaurant allows servers to show images of menu items to customers.
- Reporting: Lightspeed has built its reputation partly on the depth of reporting offered. Though Lightspeed Restaurant doesn’t go as deep as some other products, there is still a substantial number of reports to work your way through. You can view revenue and receipts by the hour, day, week, and month. There are tailored product and product category information, specific cash register monitoring (so you can see which employees are earning the most money), and also in-depth user tracking (so you can see what your staff’s activities and performance have been like over a set period). If you find Lightspeed’s reporting lacking, you can tack on an advanced reporting option for $21 a month. I usually am not a big fan of add-ons for expanded features, but in this case, Lightspeed’s basic options are relatively generous, and the advanced settings let you create your reports and feature others that are pretty intuitive and in-depth.
- Floor Planner: It’s possible to wrap your head around the floor planner in a matter of minutes. Adding tables and floors, modifying their sizes, and adding specific printers for each (so to distinguish between food and drink-only tables, for example) is effortless. You can also add cars, which I’m assuming is for easier take-away management. It is possible to highly customize your floor plan to represent the look and feel of your restaurant accurately. For instance, you can create floors out of tile or wood, add plants, add a bar with stools, create multiple floors if you have more than one story, and even specify what type of chairs you have. This next feature is especially handy for keeping track of things at times when your business gets swamped. As you can see below, the tables are different colors; green means that the table is busy (aka someone is at the table), and red means that the bill has been printed, but the patrons are still waiting to pay.
Integrations & Add-Ons
Lightspeed has an impressive array of integrations listed on its website. If you find that the software is lacking, or you need some niche functionality, you’ll likely find what you’re looking for in that list, although probably not for free.
- Employee Management: Lightspeed’s featured partner is Push Operations, which helps streamline labor management.
- Online Ordering: Lightspeed Restaurant integrates with several online ordering services, such as BPL, Chowly, and Mobikon. Mobi2Go and Zuppler offer online ordering as well as mobile ordering.
- Hotel-Specific Integrations: These include MEWS, Bookingplanner, and StayNTouch.
- Accounting: Lightspeed Restaurant integrates with QuickBooks, QuickBooks Desktop, and Xero through Lightspeed Accounting. It also integrates with Exact for Resto by ESC.
- Reservations: Lightspeed Restaurant integrates with Resengo for your reservation needs.
- Delivery: With Orderlord, you can track orders and drivers, creating a transparent delivery service.
- Financing: Lightspeed Restaurant integrates with Bizfi, Econolease Financial Services, and Evolocity Financial Group.
- Online Scheduling: For online scheduling, use CoverManager.
- Loyalty: You can integrate with AppCard, Chronogolf, GourmetMiles, and Loyal2.
- Inventory Management: You can integrate with MarketMan, Growzer, or Nobal Technologies.
- Tech Support: With Boomtown!, businesses can get 24/7 tech support.
Compatible Credit Card Processors
Count Lightspeed among the companies that have developed their own payments mechanism. It’s convenient, and the rates are relatively affordable. For tapped, inserted, or swiped payments, the fee is 2.6% plus $o.10, and for manually keyed-in payments, the rate is 2.6% plus $0.30. Unlike other companies, such as Toast or Clover, you can also use a third-party processor if you want, so you might want to shop around to make sure you’re getting the best deal for your business.
Customer Service & Technical Support
The monthly subscription price includes Lightspeed’s customer care — provided through live chat, phone, email, training videos, and user guides. There are dedicated country-specific numbers for the US, Canada, Belgium, United Kingdom, Australia, the Netherlands, and Singapore. Support times are as follows:
- 24/7 phone support excluding holidays
- A dedicated email with a one-day turnaround time
- Live chat is offered from 9 AM to 6 PM EST
I was pretty impressed with Lightspeed Restaurant’s level of support. I found the customer support to be friendly, prompt, and very helpful. Clicking on the support button from the back-end management area takes you to a page listing all of the company’s support phone numbers worldwide, gives you a link to email the support team, and directs you to the help center/live chat feature, written resources, release notes, and training videos.
In terms of social media, Lightspeed has Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Twitter pages. There is also a regularly-updated blog with news about the company or articles on business-related topics for the most part. There is also an active forum through Lightspeed’s website for customers to ask questions and help each other or get advice from professionals.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
- Bugs: I noticed a few times when I was exploring the front end that the screen would freeze for a few seconds.
- Outages: Multiple reviewers mentioned frequent interruptions in service, particularly during peak times.
- Lightspeed Payments: Some customers weren’t happy with Lightspeed Payments fees, claiming other companies were cheaper. Lightspeed Restaurant does integrate with other payment processors, but you have to do your research to figure out what makes the most sense for you.
- Price Point: While most customers were pleased with the basic features that Lightspeed offers, there were a few who pointed out that the add-ons were expensive, and they felt that the cost did not justify what they were receiving with those add-ons.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
- Ease Of Use: Customers like that Lightspeed is easy to use and doesn’t have a high learning curve.
- Great Customer Service: Many, myself included, find Lightspeed’s customer service to be very friendly, helpful, and happy to resolve your issues.
- Simplicity: Some customers praise the simplicity of Lightspeed Restaurant’s front and back ends.
- Customization: Users appreciated that they could easily tailor the system to fit their specific restaurant’s needs.
- Robust Features: Many reviewers were impressed by how much was offered from Lightspeed Restaurant and pleased with the value of the product.
If you run the kind of business for which this software is uniquely designed, then Lightspeed Restaurant should be a definite contender. The interface is elegant and straightforward, it’s ridiculously easy to use, and its reporting area is robust enough to satisfy even the most technical and astute of number crunchers.
That said, Lightspeed Restaurant isn’t without its faults. Some functionality is lacking, and there’s a distinct lack of CRM options. Although the software now includes an offline mode, there are still multiple user reviews complaining about outages.
It’s pretty clear by now that despite its minor faults, I like the simplicity and pared-down pricing model of Lightspeed Restaurant, even if you end up having to pay a bit more than you were originally expecting to access some of its better features. The company is also continually expanding its feature base to match its competition and provide above-average to excellent customer service. It’s definitely worth giving it a try. You might find that you enjoy using it as much as I did. The free trial awaits.
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