The coronavirus bit hard into restaurant operations and profitability, but point-of-sale software firm Lavu Inc. has cooked up new digital dishes to keep food and cash flowing.
Lavu, which launched in Albuquerque in 2010, offers subscription-based software systems that allow restaurants to manage internal operations online with mobile devices like iPads and smartphones. The software facilitates everything from taking customers’ orders using instantaneous communications with kitchen staff to automatic logging and processing for payment at a tablet-based register.
But during the worst of the pandemic, when restaurants in New Mexico and elsewhere closed their dining rooms, Lavu began heavily promoting an online delivery software system for restaurants to rapidly establish digital door-to-door service for customers. Through MenuDrive – a Pennsylvania-based company that Lavu acquired in 2019 – Lavu has now installed the system in 3,500 restaurants.
“MenuDrive provided a lifeline for restaurants that didn’t have online takeout and delivery,” Lavu CEO Saleem Khatri told the Journal.
Most dining rooms have since reopened. But with the pandemic still chomping down on profits, Lavu has also built a new, patent-pending software system to allow restaurants to share credit card transaction fees with patrons. Normally, restaurants pay a 3% charge unilaterally to financial firms. But a 2019 change in federal law permits retailers to pass credit card fees onto consumers.
“It’s a small fee for an individual customer, but for restaurant owners, credit card transactions often add up to their second- or third-largest expense,” Khatri said.
Lavu rolled out that system in August.
And more recently, Lavu built a new gift-card software system, which often adds value for restaurants, because consumers tend to spend more than the cash amount on a card when returning to eat, said Lavu Vice President of Marketing Brandon Micko.
“We’re giving that software free to restaurants,” Micko said. “It’s a good value for them and it allows us to recognize customer loyalty.”
Lavu’s growing suite of digital services has helped boost its bottom line, Khatri said.
During last year’s coronavirus-induced downturn, Lavu cut its Albuquerque workforce from 75 before the pandemic to 27 by January 2021. It also moved from a 17,000-square-foot suite Downtown to a 3,000-square-foot office in Uptown.
But now, Lavu is hiring again, pushing it’s global employee count in the U.S. and elsewhere to 130 today. Khatri, however, wouldn’t say how many people it currently employs in Albuquerque.
“We’re not disclosing the specific number here, but it’s growing,” Khatri said. “… I’m proud to say Lavu as an organization has been profitable all year. We’ve been cash-flow positive throughout 2021.”
In fact, Lavu has launched a new marketing push into Mexico.
“We’re rapidly expanding there,” Khatri said. “Mexico is like 10 years behind the U.S. in restaurant technology needs, so we see a lot of opportunity.”