Lightspeed Restaurant Review
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- Date Established
- Sleek, professional UI
- Intricate employee management
- Unique timed events feature
- Depth of reporting
- Offline mode can’t process payments
- High price point for smaller restaurants
Lightspeed Restaurant is a cloud-based iPad POS system for restauranteurs. It balances two seeming opposites (and quite well I might add), combining a comparatively complex, feature-rich POS backend 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.
It has everything you would expect out of a POS designed for restaurants with some nice added functions like mobile ordering. It doesn’t have the most in-depth inventory or reporting that I’ve seen, but it gets the job done and the product is continually updating for the better.
With all of this extra functionality, you might think that Lightspeed Restaurant would be charging an arm and a leg for their system. When it comes to price though, Lightspeed Restaurant actually trumps many of its competitors. This is surprising given that one of the main complaints about Lightspeed’s other two multi-purpose POS solutions, Retail and OnSite, is their relatively higher price-point. Not so with Restaurant. 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.
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The real question for you as a restaurant owner is whether or not you want a POS system that has all the functionality you need, but can go deeper if you want it to. Sounds like it should be a definite yes, doesn’t it? There is an important distinction to make, however: Lightspeed is not an ultra-functional piece of software nor is it an ultra-simple one. If you require really in-depth flexibility, if you want multi-restaurant software to run a big chain, for example, then it’s likely not for you. Equally, if you only want a basic POS system to manage a small operation at the lowest price-point, and don’t want to be bothered with fancy bells and whistles, then you might want to consider some of the cheaper, or even free, options out there.
Anyhow, let’s jump in and take a closer look at Lightspeed Restaurant POS.
Table of Contents
- Cloud-Based Or Locally Installed
- Specific Industry
- Specific Size Of Business
- Hardware & Operating System Requirements
- Ease Of Use
- Integrations & Add-Ons
- Compatible Credit Card Processors
- Customer Service & Technical Support
- Negative Reviews & Complaints
- Positive Reviews & Testimonials
- Final Verdict
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 $69 a month, which used to be its Small plan. That plan has since been expanded slightly and, if you’re needing more functionality, the company can hook you up with a quote. They also have custom pricing plans for multi-store ventures. There is a 14-day free trial available. The basic plan features:
- 1 register
- Up to 2 printers
- Personalized onboarding
- 24/7 support
- Free updates
- Secure cloud backup
- Basic reporting
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 are able to access your backend through Lightspeed’s website on any device that is able to 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 nifty piece of equipment allows users to continue using Lightspeed Restaurant in the event of an internet outage and will maintain a local database that continuously backs your data up to the Lightspeed servers. (However, this offline functionality does not include the ability to process credit cards offline.)
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.
It goes without saying that 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 and split bills, and use a “quick serve” screen for those busy periods. The numerous permission settings (explained in more detail below) might also come in 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. 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 appears mostly geared toward small to mid-sized businesses. Though the company offers an unlimited number of registers through the customizable Enterprise program, the presentation of their current pricing model leads me to believe that Lightspeed best operates within the one to five register range, though it can handle more if necessary.
Hardware & Operating System Requirements
The Lightspeed Restaurant app requires iOS 9.3 or later to function and the backend can be accessed through any browser with an Internet connection. It is compatible with iPhones, iPads, and the 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 a 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 their 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 which information you want to see when you first open up your screen and that it is easy to visually digest.
From the Dashboard screen, you are able to 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 be taken to your customizable floor plan. At the top of the screen, users will see three buttons: extra, reload, and edit. The extra button pops open to reveal several options: takeout and delivery, reservations, customers, open tabs, open cash drawer, open receipt using ID, and finally, end of day. 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 just 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 design consistency amongst the different platforms. The fact that the desktop, iPad, iPod touch, and iPhone interfaces look exactly 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 backend 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 pre-defined 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 register, voiding orders, adding tips etc. Another example of this would be having the ability to limit a staff role to 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 sub-categorized 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 take-out dishes. Discounts, service fees, and combos can also be quickly added here. Modifiers are effortlessly created and changed 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 like 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 being sold. This also comes in handy when waitstaff is taking an order and you’ve run out of a certain 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 like 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 period of 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 being used on your menu. You can input the order as it appears on the menu and when it is sent to the kitchen it will be printed in the language of your choice. This is also really helpful 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 preferred tables.
- Product Photo: One of the great things about mobile iPad systems is their 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 hefty number of reports to work your way through. You can view revenue and receipts by hour, day, week, and month. There’s 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 of time). Customers who have the Medium or Large subscription plans can add advanced reporting for an additional $29 per month, per register.
- 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 accurately represent the look and feel of your restaurant. 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. If a little clock appears on the table it signifies that no one has serviced the table in a while.
- End Of Day: Lightspeed Restaurant doesn’t have an actual end-of-day button that you would press at the end of your work day. Instead, Lightspeed has you set a time every day that your system will automatically run end-of-day calculations and reports. This is a bit confusing because there actually is a button under the extras tab that is labeled “end-of-day.” When used by a manager, this button allows them to see a report of everything that is going on in the restaurant (they can even clock out for team members who may have forgotten to do so).
Integrations & Add-Ons
- Online Ordering: Lightspeed Restaurant integrates with several online ordering services: EasyOrder, BPL Digital Online Ordering, Mobikon. Mobi2Go and Zuppler offer online ordering as well as mobile ordering.
- Hotel Specific Integrations: Mancloud, 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: Bizfi, Econolease Financial Services, Evolocity Financial Group.
- Online Scheduling: For online scheduling, use CoverManager.
- Loyalty: AppCard, Chronogolf, GourmetMiles, 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
If you’re in the US, you can choose between Cayan or Mercury (a company specifically targeting smaller business). Both of these companies offer terminals for accepting contactless mobile payments.
Europeans can use iZettle.
Customer Service & Technical Support
Lightspeed’s customer care—provided through live chat, phone, email, training videos, user guides, and “Teamviewer”—is fully included in the monthly subscription price. 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.
- Dedicated email with 1-day turnaround time.
- Live chat is offered 9 am to 6 pm EST.
I was actually pretty impressed with Lightspeed Restaurant’s level of support. I found customer support to be friendly, prompt, and very helpful. Clicking on the support button from the backend management area takes you to a page listing all of the company’s support phone numbers worldwide, gives you a link to email their 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 blog regularly updated with news about the company or articles on business-related topics for the most part.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
Because Lightspeed is a relative newcomer to the scene, negative consumer reviews are quite hard to come by. There just isn’t the user-base yet to warrant them. After scouring the internet I was able to find two complaints: one cited missing accounting functionality and the other mentioned running into a few bugs.
Since the internet at large is not teeming with customer reviews, here are some concerns I personally have about the software:
- Bugs: I noticed a few times when I was exploring the front end that the screen would freeze for a few seconds.
- Missing Integrations: The software is missing an integration with a third-party client (like MailChimp, for example) that would give users the ability to easily collect customers’ email addresses and send out marketing emails. There is currently a workaround in the system and a future integration with a marketing system is in the works. Until then it would still be nice to have and not have to use a workaround to get by.
- Poor Connectivity: Multiple reviews mentioned lag time or the system freezing up. This can obviously be a huge issue considering Lightspeed’s inability to process payments in its offline mode.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
As I already stated, not many positive reviews of Lightspeed Restaurant exist, but there are some video testimonials on the company’s main page featuring businesses that are satisfied with the system. Comments from other sources center on:
- 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: There are also customers who praise the simplicity of Lightspeed Restaurant’s front and back ends.
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 simple, 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. Generally speaking, POS software doesn’t do marketing management all that well, but at least some level of mailing list integration is usually offered.
Another feature in the works for quick service restaurants is a kitchen display that will replace the need for kitchen printers. Lightspeed’s offline mode still lags behind some of its competitors as the inability to process cards and store the data during an outage is pretty significant.
It’s pretty clear by now that despite its minor faults, I really like the simplicity and pared-down pricing model of Lightspeed Restaurant. It’s definitely worth giving a try. You might just find that you enjoy using it as much as I did. The free trial awaits.
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