A recent partnership between two global fintech companies, one with a significant presence in Tampa, allows customers to settle restaurant bills with cryptocurrency, pay incrementally and easily split bills within a large party.
Lavu offers a restaurant management and point-of-sale (POS) system for thousands of restaurants across 65 countries. Saleem S. Khatri, CEO of Lavu, said that while the company focuses on small-to-medium sized businesses, its clients include several major universities, United Airlines and a multinational technology company – named after fruit – with a market cap worth over $2 trillion.
While he could not say the company’s name on record, Khatri said it utilizes Lavu’s hardware and software in all its cafeterias.
Based in Albuquerque, Khatri opened a large Tampa office in August of 2021. The Harvard Business School graduate and several of his top executives now operate out of the rapidly expanding office, which is on pace to become the company’s largest later this year. Last week, he announced a joint offering with global payment solution Verifone that integrates Lavu’s restaurant software with Verifone’s FLEX payment solution and Advanced Payments Method platform.
“Like all good things in life, it wasn’t planned.” said Khatri. “We want restaurants to grow, and anyway that they can drive additional revenue, we’re excited about.”
The first product to emerge from the innovative partnership is a combination of Verifone’s Engage e285 device and Lavu’s tablet-based POS system. Utilizing the integrated platform, customers can pay using Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Dogecoin, Shiba Inu, stablecoins, prominent crypto wallets, PayPal or Venmo.
Patrons then complete the transaction on their smartphone without ever opening their physical wallet or handing over a credit card.
Saleem S. Khatri, CEO of Lavu, relocated to Tampa in August of 2021.
Khatri said the partnership with Verifone started as a way to offer an integrated payment solution in places like Thailand – without the need to reconcile credit card payments outside of Lavu’s POS software.
“That was the first reason we decided to work with Verifone,” said Khatri. “But what we found is, the crypto thing has just taken off.
“That’s what is really resonating with people.”
Khatri called the process super simple. Lavu provides clients with an iPad, cash drawer and Verifone device that enables owners to manage staff, inventory, payroll and “do everything that you would need to do to run your restaurant business.”
The system allows credit card payments but focuses on the tap and pay method popularized by Apple and Google Pay. Crypto enthusiasts use a similar payment method, opening their digital wallets and then tapping their phones on the receiver. Khatri added that the service does not require users to download additional mobile apps.
“It’s super clean and super easy,” he said. “A very elegant solution, and there’s a lot of reasons why restaurants like it.”
Khatri, once an executive officer with the Department of Treasury’s Office of Financial Stability, where he helped guide the $79 billion “Auto Bailout,” said the new system reduces a restaurant’s two highest costs – labor and credit card processing fees.
He said an establishment with $100,000 in monthly sales spends $3,000 in credit card fees, and utilizing cryptocurrency mitigates that expense.
“There are fees associated with this crypto thing because it’s just getting started,” said Khatri. “But the fees are much lower.”
The ability to seamlessly pay using cryptocurrency is not the only unique feature of the system. Customers can use their phones to scan QR codes on receipts and settle their bills instantly, and there is also a buy-now-pay-later service.
While spreading payments out over time might seem ideal for the average person celebrating at a fancy restaurant, Khatri said he was surprised to learn people use the feature for a $30 UberEats order.
“We’re doing all of these things for restaurants … to help offset the staffing shortages, high costs with inflation, and we’re even working with …” said Khatri before stopping midsentence.
He then said Lavu “is doing something with drone delivery for food.” While he could not provide further public details at this time, he called the next partnership “very futuristic.”
Lavu is actively expanding throughout the Tampa Bay market. Khatri noted that most of his marketing and sales team joined him at the regional office off Henderson Boulevard in Tampa. In addition to “a handful” of local small businesses, he said the Tampa Sports Authority is a client.
“Tampa people are amazing, and we just absolutely love it here,” said Khatri. “So, we’re definitely going to make some noise here.”
For more information on Lavu, visit its website here.
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