Lightspeed Restaurant Review 2022: Costs, Pros, Cons and Alternatives

This system offers flexibility to support almost any kind of food service business.
Oct 28, 2021

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Lightspeed Restaurant is a highly customizable iPad-based point-of-sale, or POS, system that scales and adapts to restaurants with widely ranging sizes, service styles and business models. It’s possible to use the system for just about anything you might want to do in food service. Figuring out the add-ons you need for your business to operate smoothly may not be the easiest to do, though, and the total price for those add-ons can add up quickly.

At its simplest, a Lightspeed Restaurant POS setup could be a single iPad, cash drawer, payment terminal and a couple of printers. It can also cover much larger and more complex arrangements with a huge range of features and add-ons for full-service and quick-service restaurants, bars, coffee shops, takeout, delivery, self-ordering, staff and inventory management, loyalty and rewards programs and more. Here's what you need to know to decide if the system is right for your business.

LightSpeed POS

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on Lightspeed's website

Deciding factors

Software cost

Single POS register:

  • $39/month.

Additional registers: $39/month.

Hardware cost

Quote-based. You may be able to reuse or bring existing hardware from a previous system or the used market.

Payment processing cost

For cards tapped, inserted, or swiped: 2.6% plus 10 cents per transaction.

For card numbers manually keyed in: 2.6% plus 30 cents per transaction.

$15 chargeback fee.

Integration with third-party payment processors is also available.

Contract length

Excellent. Monthly pricing is available; lower rates require annual contracts.

Live support

Excellent. Lightspeed promises 24/7 support, even for hardware bought elsewhere, as long as it is on its list of supported options.

Ease of use

Excellent. A free onboarding session can help you get up to speed quickly; iPads are familiar to many potential users. There are clearly written support materials with plenty of screenshots and 24/7 customer support are available if you need more help.

What kind of restaurant does Lightspeed Restaurant work for?

Lightspeed Restaurant can fit almost any kind of restaurant, though some business models may take more configuration work than others.

On its website, the company highlights how the platform can support the following eateries:

  • Full-service restaurants.

  • Quick-service restaurants.

  • Bars.

  • Cafes.

The system can handle tables, in-house and takeout orders, delivery options, tabs, bills and payments. There are also many add-ons available to boost efficiency, support different or expanded business models, or provide additional analytics. It can also integrate with third-party meal delivery services like UberEats and DoorDash.

All in all, it’s likely that the Lightspeed Restaurant system could be configured to fit your restaurant. Bear in mind, though, that the add-ons you might need for functions beyond the core system each have monthly fees. Costs could quickly add up if you want to use the system for a service model significantly different from a typical sit-down or quick-service restaurant.

How much does Lightspeed Restaurant cost?

Software costs

The core Lightspeed Restaurant POS costs:

  • $39 per month for a single register.

Additional registers can be added at $39 per month.

The $39 per month price is competitive. It’s less than the Standard software plan for Toast’s Starter Kit, TouchBistro’s base POS and Square for Restaurants’ Plus tier, the least expensive paid plan.

The core Lightspeed Restaurant offering is a cloud-based POS that runs on iPads. Servers enter orders on the iPad, which could be mounted on a counter or stand or carried tableside. The POS sends tickets and receipts to networked printers and accepts payments through an integrated payment processing system.

Managers configure staff accounts, the restaurant layout, the menu, prices and payment functionality to fit the business. The core POS also includes reporting functions to help you keep track of sales, menu items and staffing.

Lightspeed offers a free 14-day trial before you purchase.

Add-on features and functionality are available a la carte:

  • Customer-facing display app.

  • Kitchen display system.

  • Advanced reporting.

  • A tablet app that customers can use to place orders from their tables.

  • eCom for Restaurant, an online store builder for restaurants.

  • Accounting integrations.

  • Loyalty features.

  • A kiosk mode that customers can use to place orders at the counter.

  • Delivery integration.

  • Order ahead.

Lightspeed integrates with software for accounting, analytics, customer service, hotel management, invoicing, marketing, payroll, rental, reporting and more.

Unlike some competitors, Lightspeed Restaurant doesn't offer predefined packages at standard price points. You will need a custom price quote to find out what your system configuration and add-ons will cost.

Payment processing costs

Lightspeed has its own in-house payment processor, Lightspeed Payments, but you aren't required to use it. The company provides setup documentation for the payment processors it supports, as well as processor-specific documentation to set up card readers or terminals to accept payments.

If you choose Lightspeed Payments as your payment processor, rates will depend on how the transaction is entered:

  • For cards tapped, inserted, or swiped on a terminal: 2.6% plus 10 cents per transaction.

  • For card numbers manually keyed-in: 2.6% plus 30 cents per transaction.

There are no monthly or annual fees, but Lightspeed charges a $15 fee for chargebacks.

You can also choose to integrate with a third-party payment processor, instead.

Hardware costs

Lightspeed sells hardware both individually and in bundles but doesn't publish hardware prices online. You will need to contact Lightspeed Restaurant sales for a hardware price quote.

A basic system includes the following:

  • Receipt printer.

  • Cash drawer.

  • Payment terminal.

  • Kitchen printer.

  • Lightspeed Lite server.

  • iPad stand.

  • iPad.

However, if you have existing hardware from a previous system or the used market, you might be able to reuse it with Lightspeed Restaurant. Lightspeed is fairly flexible in terms of compatible hardware. For example, it lists compatible iPad and iPhone models introduced as far back as 2013, about 20 options for printers and 10 options for payment terminals.

Lightspeed promises 24/7 customer support for questions about hardware, even if you didn’t buy it from the company.

Pros of Lightspeed Restaurant

Customization can fit almost any business

Lightspeed can be as simple or complex as you need and can be tailored to fit a wide array of restaurant layouts and service types. Just about every feature has significant customization and personalization options to help the system fit your specific needs and procedures.

You can reuse or bring your own hardware

You don’t need to buy hardware directly from Lightspeed. If you’re coming from a previous POS or have a source to buy used hardware at a discount, you can use it with Lightspeed as long as it’s on the list of compatible options. The company also promises full 24/7 hardware support from its team.

Everything is integrated

Lightspeed has enough features and add-ons to handle the majority of your restaurant business all in one dedicated system, which can make things a lot simpler for you. The system can also integrate to share data with other related systems to make it easier for you to keep everything in sync.

Cons of Lightspeed Restaurant

Customization effort

It might take a lot of effort to get everything just right with the huge array of configuration options, add-ons and integrations in Lightspeed Restaurant. Flexibility can be powerful, but watch out for the potential learning curve both for your initial setup and when training staff.

Add-on pricing

Lightspeed Restaurant supports add-ons for a lot of extra functionality, but the price for those add-ons can add up quickly. Because system pricing is quote-based, it's difficult to compare potential costs until you get customized quotes.

Offline functionality

As a cloud-based system, Lightspeed Restaurant requires an internet connection. That means that when you lose internet service, your POS system can’t work unless you buy Lightspeed’s LiteServer. Using a LiteServer will enable basic functionality for orders, bills and receipts when offline. However, even with a LiteServer, you still can’t run credit, debit or gift cards, use third-party integrations with other software or use POS data for your reports.

LightSpeed POS

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on Lightspeed's website

Alternatives to Lightspeed Restaurant

Toast: Dedicated hardware and standardized packages

Toast offers its own purpose-built hardware for its POS, rather than using iPads like Lightspeed Restaurant. If you prefer dedicated options for the POS, payment terminals, self-order kiosks and kitchen displays that you know have been built with food service in mind, the company's hardware is a strong offering. It also offers an offline mode that could be helpful if you’re concerned about connectivity with a cloud-based system. It has a free starter package and two higher packages.

Square: Handles restaurants, retail and the rest

Square is NerdWallet’s choice for best overall POS system. Square for Restaurants has features built for food service; similar to how Lightspeed offers its own retail POS solution, Square also has customized setups for retail and professional transactions. If you do a lot of retail business in addition to food service, or if you just want the flexibility to cover nearly any kind of transaction on your choice of iOS or Android devices, this product could be a great pick. A free starter tier, transparent pricing for payment processing and no contract requirement also makes it particularly easy to give it a try.

Square Payments

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on Square's website