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Lavu assists restaurants hit by coronavirus

LAVU on Central Ave. and First Street in downtown Albuquerque. (Dean Hanson/Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Restaurants in some 100 countries use Lavu’s online management platform, putting many of its customers on the frontlines of the battle against coronavirus.

To help, the Albuquerque-based company announced this week it will waive its monthly fees for any restaurant forced to shut down from the virus.

“We’ll waive the fees our customers pay monthly to keep their service up and running if a city is quarantined and the restaurant is forced to close,” said Lavu CEO Saleem Khatri. “We’ll do that for any customer around the world…If they’re closed one week, we’ll waive the fees for one month, if two weeks, we’ll take care of two months of payments.”

Restaurants and small businesses face some of the hardest challenges as the coronavirus spreads across the globe, because most achieve profitability through lean operations and thin margins, making even a short closure difficult to navigate.

“Cash is always tight,” Khatri said. “Any prolonged slow down can have a detrimental impact.”

Restaurants operating in places with coronavirus outbreaks have been hit hard. In Beijing, about 70% of all restaurants remain closed, the New York Times reported Thursday.

In King County, Washington, the site of the largest coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., restaurants and small businesses have reported marked declines in customer traffic, including Lavu customers in the area.

“We have multiple customers in Washington state and in the King County area,” Khatri said. “I spoke with several of them this week who said people are worried and panicking and restaurant traffic has slowed down. If that lasts even a few months, it will make life very hard for them.”

The virus is spreading to many more states, but there are no confirmed cases to date in New Mexico.

Congress approved $8.5 billion this week to help fight the virus at the federal and state levels. It includes money for subsidized loans for small businesses impacted by the contagion.

Lavu launched in 2010 with proprietary point-of-sale software for restaurants to manage all services on mobile devices in real time on a single platform, including front-end customer service and back-end administration.

Most Lavu customers are in North America, but the company is rapidly growing its base in Asia, particularly in Thailand and Malaysia.

“So far things are normal there, but we’re watching the situation closely,” Khatri said. “I think we should all prepare for a potential slowdown. We don’t know what the economic impact will be, but it could be meaningful.”


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