Lavu Inc. is taking its iPad-based point-of-sale system from the restaurant dining room into the hotel lobby through Lavu Hospitality.
The Albuquerque, N.M.-based point of sale (POS) software provider currently serves about 3,300 small restaurants worldwide with a system that accepts payments, handles scheduling and helps owners manage all aspects of their business.
"We've been moving slowly toward the hospitality market for some time," said Corey Fiala, co-founder and developer of Lavu Hospitality. "Our system has a lot of functionality that we've been able to release that covers a lot of what you need to do in a hotel."
Lavu already had some hotels using the POS system for their restaurants, helping the company realize that "being able to get a lot of that functionality all in one place would probably be a big deal" for Lavu and the hotel industry, Fiala said.
The Lavu system, operated through an iPad, mobile card reader and receipt printer, offers hotel owners software that monitors check-ins and online booking. Charging payment cards for room service was part of a natural transition for Lavu, Fiala said.
Clients generally purchase the iPad and other hardware needed to operate Lavu, and then download the Lavu app and register through the company's website. Lavu has a network of distributors that can help larger restaurants or hotels set up needed equipment and make sure the extra hardware communicates properly with the software.
Clients may choose to have a mobile card reader or a traditional USB card reader plugged into the receipt printer, Fiala said. "Some may have both, but if you are doing a lot of card swiping, sometimes the sturdier USB hardware is better."
Companies such as Lavu can find a niche with smaller restaurants and bed-and-breakfast establishments that would benefit from a simple POS system with scheduling and business management built in, said Thad Peterson, senior analyst with Boston-based Aite Group.
"Hospitality is an interesting market because, for larger chains, the integration of payments and scheduling is extremely complex," Peterson said. "But there is definitely opportunity at the small end because the larger organizations don't support that level of client."
Lavu has already addressed the cross-border issues that come with deploying in international markets, so much of its success will ride on focusing on its product and serving clients, Peterson said. "The moving tablet works in certain environments, but in some you are going to want the tablet on a stand, and that would be an area to consider [for their own stand]," he said.
Lavu works with different payment processors and gateways, depending on client preference. But the company works most often with Mercury Payment or Heartland for processing, Fiala said.
Clients purchase a license to use the Lavu product and pay a monthly fee, but there are no contracts or transaction fees. The license and fees are based on the number of iPad terminals in use, not the volume of transactions. The least expensive license is $1,995 and monthly fee $199 for use on one iPad.
The restaurant and hotel industries have presented an extensive arena for mobile POS and mobile wallet providers of all sizes.
Oracle Corp. may seek larger targets than Lavu, but the company said it wanted to boost its slowing growth by adding POS software for hotels and restaurants through a recent purchase of Micros Systems.
Heartland has a potential play in the hospitality industry in mind after its recent purchase of mobile pay provider Leaf, which offers tablets designed to accept payments. Leaf also provides apps to serve specific industries, including restaurant reservation systems.
Lavu may also expand beyond the hospitality market. "In the future, off the top of my head, we see golf courses as a logical client," Fiala said. "Any place in which you put scheduling needs together with a POS, we are going to be very strong."