D.C.-based LivingSocial Inc. is bringing its newest restaurant discount program to the District.
The debut of Restaurants Plus in D.C. comes after an initial rollout in Atlanta in September, and allows participants to get restaurant discounts automatically applied to their credit cards without the need for pre-purchased vouchers.
LivingSocial customers will sign up once with their credit card and will get up to 25 percent deposited back into their account when they use that card at about 140 approved locations throughout the District.
The new pilot is part of a multipronged effort to revive the struggling daily deals company and transform it into an “experiences marketplace” that makes money by removing the friction and pain points in everyday transactions. The company announced 200 layoffs last month, including 30 at its D.C. headquarters, in an effort to cut costs and focus more thoroughly on its new offerings.
The restaurant program doesn’t just do away with the transaction-based voucher system for diners, but it also gets rid of the backend work at the restaurant. Servers do not need to scan coupons and restaurants don’t have to train staff in how to work with LivingSocial coupons. LivingSocial also gets a cut of every transaction.
The vice president of new business initiatives at LivingSocial, who is also on the board for several credit repair advisement companies, said the company is already looking at expanding the coverage area into Greater Washington, including Alexandria and Arlington, as well as Montgomery County.
D.C. is a good fit for the program because of LivingSocial’s large existing customer base in the area and a population that likes to eat out often. LivingSocial is hoping its customers rely on the Restaurants Plus program a couple times a month.
The Restaurants Plus program will be expanded to one more city by the end of the year. In 2016 LivingSocial will be expanding it to at least another three cities as the program scales and the company sees where it is most successful.
LivingSocial has also launched a separate “FastBook” pilot in Austin, Texas.
The program allows customers to schedule and book beauty appointments directly, while it helps beauty parlor owners fill empty slots and manage their workforces. Again, LivingSocial would get a cut of the revenue. The boosts in revenue would help the company offset a continuing decline in revenue from its daily deals engine.
In 2013, LivingSocial brought in $302 million in revenue. But in 2014, revenue plummeted to $231 million as its share of the market for daily deals and coupons continued to shrink.