The Lightspeed Restaurant POS is cloud-based and runs from an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch app. Apart from its many specialised features, it boasts a range of integration options with e-commerce and partner apps.
Highs: 24/7 customer support. Advanced features. No long-term commitment needed.
Lows: Not that intuitive to use. Prices on the high side. Offline function requires on-site server.
Pricing – different options
Lightspeed Restaurant costs from £79 + VAT per iPad each month. There is no minimum contract – you pay monthly via direct debit and can cancel any time you want.
It is possible to be offered a lower price depending on your requirements. They have previously been offering longer-term contracts that make the monthly cost lower, but you’ll need to contact them for more information on that. They are not transparent about their costs online and actively encourage phoning for any information.
On top of the POS application, they offer a self-order “kiosk”, which is an app enabling customers to order and pay directly via a dedicated iPad without the need for a waiter to take the order. You can also pay £9 a month per iPad if you run the Self-Order Menu application without the option for customers to pay without the waiter present.
The £79-a-month plan is a little on the high side, especially if you only have one register in the establishment.
There are add-on features and hardware solutions explained and quoted only when you speak to a Lightspeed adviser, so the final costs will ultimately depend on your needs.
There have been past reports of price increases (although with at least 30 days’ notice), but we were assured by a Lightspeed consultant that the quoted prices will not increase.
We recommend you take advantage of the 14-days’ free trial before committing to any lasting arrangement, since the Restaurant POS will be more advanced than what some small businesses need it for.
Lightspeed integrates with a range of card machines including Verifone terminals and iZettle Reader, as well as partner applications and their own eCommerce platform. The fees you pay for card transactions depend on which payment provider you go for.
Who is Lightspeed Restaurant suited for?
As the name suggests, Lightspeed Restaurant is specifically made for restaurants, and from what we can see, any other food-and-drink establishments. It is probably the restaurant POS that works best for hotel restaurants, since it integrates with several property management systems like Amadeus, Oracle Hospitality, Protel and others.
Out of all POS for hospitality, this is one of the most comprehensive options available in the UK. Medium-sized restaurants should therefore consider this as a viable solution with the foundation to stretch across multiple locations and grow in line with customer habits. For example, the self-service kiosks enabling people to order themselves at their table is a growing trend in eateries, and Lightspeed offers this.
That said, the software is highly adaptable to your needs, so it is also suitable for smaller cafés, bars, pubs and the likes, where customers are commonly seated at a table. Those who also accept orders online will like its integration with Lightspeed eCommerce. Multiple other integration options with other tools ensure that you are not limited to using just the Restaurant POS for all your needs.
Cloud-based, but can work offline
The iPad application updates all transaction details and changes made in the app in real time, so the restaurant admin can view and analyse it from anywhere in the so-called Manager account from a browser. For this to work, the iPad needs to be connected to WiFi or 3G/4G for immediate syncing of data.
Lightspeed also says they have an offline mode, but this only works in conjunction with a Lite Server that you purchase separately. Buying this allows you to use Lightspeed during patches of no WiFi so front-end staff will still be able to use all the app functionality to serve customers. Next time the WiFi is back up and running, any new changes will be synced in the central Lightspeed cloud so the backend account can view it.
Just beware that card transactions will still need WiFi, a mobile network or telephone line to work, all depending on your card machine. And to be clear, without the Lite Server, you can’t use Lightspeed Restaurant POS when the internet is out.
Offline mode will not work without the Lite Server on your premises. Photo: Lightspeed.
The point-of-sale app only works with Apple devices. You log in via dedicated staff accounts set up by the business admin in the backend account called ‘Manager’.
The first logged-in screen in the app is your default floor plan. This is fully customisable, i.e. you can add, remove, resize and move chairs and tables. There are more customisation features in the backend account, e.g. creating tables for takeaway and deliveries has to be done in Manager, but basic tables and formatting can be edited directly in the app.
To start an order, you tap on a table where after you see the products and order screen. This is where you can tap on individual food items and scroll different categories set up in advance by the admin. There are various bottom, left and top button rows with different functionality, some of which are disabled depending on your user account permissions, order type, product type and hardware setup. The Pay screen contains different payment and order status options too, depending on what’s set up by the company admin.
The app layout itself is okay, but not that intuitive unless you have worked with similar interfaces before. New staff members will need to be trained in using the POS, as otherwise they can get lost in what the different buttons mean or where the different functions are.
Takeaway and delivery orders have to be initiated through dedicated tables regardless of whether you have physical tables for those or not. This affects the visual layout of the floor plan, since you may need to adjust it to accommodate for these tables. You can add multiple different floors to each location where needed.
Floor plan, order screen, and checkout page in Lightspeed Restaurant POS. Photos: Mobile Transaction.
Lightspeed makes a big deal out of onboarding and phone support, and we can see why. As a new customer, you’re entitled to a personalised introduction webinar where you’re assisted through using the software. Especially in the beginning, using the app and functions can be overwhelming, because there are so many settings to customise and information to add to enable a complete checkout experience in the app. Many of the functions are not explained clearly in the interface, making it more suitable for seasoned restaurant POS users than newbies in the trade.
That said, once you know the drill, it’s quick to use – unless you’re dealing with lots of complicated orders where you need to type additional notes to kitchen staff, or individual staff members forget to finalise orders or clock out.
During testing, we noticed a few places with unnecessary extra steps. For instance, drag-and-drop had to be manually enabled on the product setup page in Manager before you can use it. And if you accidentally tap on a table on the floor plan, it starts a new tab that can only be undone by tapping “Pay” and “Finalize” instead of just going back to the floor plan (which, if done, marks the table as taken). Another limitation is that images can only be added in Manager, not the iPad app.
Lightspeed Pro is clearly built for hospitality, evident in the myriad of features relevant to experienced food-and-drink establishments. Apart from the typical restaurant features like tipping, here’s a snapshot of others.
Advanced table tab functions: Assign orders to specific seats at a table, so the waiter knows who’s getting what. Customer switching table? No problem – just transfer the tab to the new table. Customers can also split the bill in any way needed, for instance choose to split by seat, pay in equal parts or just let each table person pay for selected items.
Location management: Not only can you set up multiple floor plans with various table types (e.g. bar, takeaway, regular tables) from the app, you can also add multiple physical locations and coordinate stock exchanges between them. The software is, in other words, built to accommodate for chains and non-static food establishments.
Timed offers: Running a happy hour deal, Saturday promotion or any other limited offers? Set up timed discounts in Manager that apply to specific products, so staff don’t have to check the time and apply discounts manually.
Modifiers: Lightspeed’s ‘modifiers’ are additional choices assigned to a product or category to provide more details about the order. For example, add type of salad dressing, cooking temperature or preferred side dishes out of a selection. In other words, modifiers enable customised orders sent directly to the kitchen so they can start preparing the meals while the waiter takes the order.
Customer loyalty features: Create or pay by gift cards directly in the app. Returning customers can be added to the customer library to enable quick checkout and easy delivery orders. Each customer profile contains as much or little information as you add, but also tracks what they consumed, payment information and when they last bought from you.
Each staff member has their own account in the Lightspeed app, enabling staff tracking and an individualised overview of orders. Photo: Mobile Transaction.
Employee management: Set up multiple staff accounts with highly customised permission sets for each role. We were impressed by the number of permissions you can toggle on or off (60+ different permissions, e.g. “Allow edit discounts”, “Allow viewing cash drawer history” etc.). Each user clocks in and out in the app to mark their shifts, and you can analyse each staff member’s sales data any time in the backend.
Reservations management: Take table reservations in the app at selected times, adding number of customers, status of reservation, and a note about any other details.
Menu options: You don’t just add individual products to the POS – combine items to make up meals, and group meals into categories like side dishes, mains and desserts. Add upselling reminders about related products that customers might want to buy when specific items are selected, so you won’t miss an opportunity to sell more. For an extra cost, you can set up a self-service iPad (a separate app called Self-Service Menu) stationed at the customer’s table, through which they can either just order off your menu or both order and pay, while your staff is busy serving other people.
Stock management: Keep track of what stock is running low by enabling inventory tracking on individual products. Curiously, we noticed that stock level count doesn’t apply to food ingredients directly, but to the complete product purchased by the customer. The way it works now, you can view ingredients consumed, but not the current stock level of ingredients, so you still have to keep track of what you have in stock when it comes to this.
Card payments and hardware integration
Lightspeed POS can be integrated fully with the card machines iZettle Reader, and Verifone VX680 and VX820. Each card payment provider has their own transaction fees, so your total monthly cost will depend on which provider you go for.
You also have the option to use a non-integrated card machine, where you accept the cards independently while processing the order in the POS app and manually clicking “finalise” when the credit card has been accepted through the card machine. Using any of the above integrated solutions will enable an automated flow where the card machine is synced with the POS software and checkout process.
Unless you only want to email customers their receipts, you’ll need to integrate the POS with a compatible receipt printer. Lightspeed is compatible with a long list of Star and Epson printers as well as the Orient BTP-R880NP printer, all shown as options in the Printing menu of Manager. Cash drawers can also be integrated, and restaurants can connect to a kitchen printer.
The aforementioned Lite Server for the POS offline mode can be purchased directly through Lightspeed, who do not list their hardware prices online, but they can give you quotes over the phone. They offer hardware bundles too, which they are keen to talk about if you reach out to them.
Lightspeed offers hardware bundles to suit your establishment.
Sales reports, such as Z and X reports, can be printed directly from the app and accessed only by users with permission to view the data.
In the backend, it’s possible to view various customised reports that can be exported as PDF or CSV files. Analyse things like staff performance, daily, weekly or monthly sales, ingredients used, products sold and shift reports.
In the ‘Advanced Reports’ tab, you can fully customise the layout and content of your report through drag-and-drop, although this needs to be activated by contacting customer support first.
Lightspeed offers phone support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for customers as part of all their packages. In fact, when we signed up for the 14-day trial, they tried to phone on several occasions to discuss our needs, and only emailed after some days. If you prefer writing, however, they are willing to answer your questions over email or their website chat.
Paying customers get a free onboarding video session with a Lightspeed consultant, where you get introduced to the software and can have all your questions answered. The online support forum answers a lot of questions, but still lacks certain important topics like listing compatible printers. If you’re unlucky to look up several questions that happen to be unanswered (which happened to us), it can get a little tedious to keep trying.
There is no doubt Lightspeed Restaurant POS is built by industry veterans who knows what kind of things restaurants and other food-and-drink businesses need. On top the standard POS features, you also get marketing add-ons like happy hour functions, upsell pointers and even free templates for food menus (tip: you can get the latter without being a customer).
That said, occasionally some customers mention very specific functions that are not addressed by Lightspeed, so if you trial the software, we recommend checking all the different things you need in your business.
- Advanced menu features designed to maximise sales
- Myriads of features allowing flexible but detailed coordination of food orders
- 24/7 friendly customer support
- Accepts cards with or without integration with card machine
- Highly customisable reports
- No long-term commitment needed
- Can integrate with Lightspeed eCommerce and various partner apps
- Prices on the high side
- User-friendliness could be better – may require training to use the product
- Some processes take extra taps/clicks to complete than what is necessary
- Customer support section of website could cover more topics
- Offline mode only works with an onsite server
- Self-Service Menu is an extra cost
- Have to contact Lightspeed directly for certain information