In 2010, an Albuquerque restaurant owner asked Andy Lim, a friend and the eatery’s website designer, to create an alternative to the expensive, unintuitive point-of-sale system he was using. The restaurant owner wanted a streamlined system for functions like order taking and checkout.
“He gave me and Corey Fiala (now my co-founder) a receipt printer and cash drawer and said ‘please make something better for me,’” recalls Lim. “That was just before the release of the iPad.”
Lim, who has a degree from the University of New Mexico in management information systems, and Fiala, an app developer, moved fast, and by the iPad’s initial release, they had Lavu, a full-featured point-of-sale system for restaurants, up and available on the Apple App Store. “Our website soon had hundreds of requests coming in from all over the world, and we knew then that we were on to something big,” says Lim, now Lavu CEO.
Built for iOS devices like iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touches, Lavu makes full use of Apple’s intuitive, user-friendly hardware, says Lim. Lavu allows servers and hosts to use the Apple devices to take orders, track seating, and email receipts to customers to reduce printing waste. It also offers direct credit card integration.
Orders taken on the iPad or iPod are immediately transferred via wireless technology to the kitchen staff. Lavu allows restaurant staff to keep track of all the tables and open tickets, split checks easily, and adapt quickly to changes—such as when a guest decides during a meal to move to another table. Staff easily can make modifications to the menu, to add specials or remove out of stock items, and can also upload pictures of menu items to show guests what they’re ordering. Lavu also runs order history tracking with an integrated customer database, and labor vs. sales reporting, which can be accessed remotely via the Apple device.
The system counts down as menu items are purchased and warnings are displayed when those items are close to gone. When the inventory count reaches zero for an item, it displays as unavailable for purchase, which gives the server the ability to immediately inform the customer.
Lavu iPad POS is now used in more than 3,500 service businesses in 85 countries. One such business is Pies & Pints Pizzeria, which started using Lavu more than a year ago in its Morgantown, West Virginia, location and liked it so much, expanded its use to its Dayton, Ohio, location.
Another big fan is celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, who features Lavu on his television show “Kitchen Nightmares” as a means to help troubled restaurants improve operations and their businesses’ bottom line.
At Pies & Pints, “we were looking for a POS system that we could fix or take care of on our own, with the backing of great technical support,” says Kelly Ann Davison, assistant manager of the Dayton location. “Lavu’s support team is awesome at getting right back to you and informing you on how to repair any issues.”
Davison, who also handles training and computer system set-up for the company’s five stores, says “the best part of Lavu is setting up the system exactly how we want it. It's also user friendly, and since the majority of staff own smartphones, training was easy.”
Lavu’s main mission is to help entrepreneurs find success. “We provide restaurants with a quality point of sale, designed to reduce mundane tasks that can take up so much time,” Lim says. “ Our product improves communication and workflow, which benefits the bottom line.”
While Lavu, Inc. has a particular interest in small startups, its system does have features that cater to national franchises, as well. “We began as a small business ourselves, and we understand the strain caused by initial start up costs, as well as the importance of long-term value,” Lim says.
Lavu 88 was added for small business owners that need the capabilities of a full-featured POS, but don’t have the upfront funds to purchase a legacy system, which may cost more than $10,000. Lavu 88 has no upfront licensing fees, and clients can use Lavu on a month-to-month basis, which can be a real benefit for seasonal businesses.
Features include the ability to make instant changes via the cloud for updating daily menu changes for specials of the day. “Restaurant owners can increase sales and customer traffic with happy hour discounts (applied automatically), seasonal or weekly deals, and more efficient service because of modern functionality,” Lim says. “Some owners have daily specials that need to be applied every morning. Our cloud-based point of sale makes that happen, all in real-time.”
Feature updates and improvements are free, and give restaurant owners immediate access. Lavu offers three types of restaurant service options (tables, tabs, quick-serve), as well as unlimited customization options.
“Also available are important extensions such as online ordering with a delivery scheduler and the kitchen display systems that communicate using wireless technology,” Lim says.
By Joann Whitcher