October 17, 2011, 4:25 PM

LivingSocial goes after the high-spending foodie

Invitation-only LivingSocial Gourmet focuses on epicurean food experiences.

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Daily deal site operator LivingSocial today launched an invitation-only service featuring offers for high-end food and restaurant deals.

The offers from LivingSocial Gourmet typically range from $100 to $200 per person; that costs significantly more than a standard LivingSocial deal, such as today’s offer of $7 for $15 worth of food at City Park Grill in a north suburban Chicago restaurant. The LivingSocial Gourmet will also offer group packages focusing on food, says Alli Phillips, LivingSocial Gourmet’s general manager.  "These are a higher price point because they're unique and exclusive and appeal to folks that are willing to pay for something unique and interesting," she says.

LivingSocial will feature new offers every two weeks. “Gourmet gives high-end restaurateurs access to desired, loyal, high-quality clientele—people who appreciate food and dine out frequently,” she says.

LivingSocial Gourmet’s first offer is at tony Washington, D.C., restaurant CityZen. The deal offers consumers a six-course tasting menu with wine pairings and cheese for $250 per guest, including tax and tip. A deal for a table of four is $1,000. Typically the six-course tasting menu with cheese and wine pairings is $220, and that does not include tax and tip, according to CityZen.

LivingSocial says future events include a trip to a D.C.-area sustainable farm for a tour and food tasting, as well as a visit to a restaurant's cheese caves to learn how cheese is made and how to pair it with food. The deals can give consumers access to exclusive events otherwise unavailable to them, says Phillips. “We have an on-the-ground team in every market, so we know the restaurant scene and can work with local restaurants to create the perfect, custom experiences for them,” she says.

The offering targets high-end restaurants that don’t often work with deal operators such as LivingSocial or Groupon because their high commissions, up to 50% of revenue, eat into the restaurant’s profits and could mar the establishment’s brand. That has enabled other online discount operators that target high-end consumers, like Gilt Groupe’s Gilt City, to focus on those types of businesses. Gilt is No. 49 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

LivingSocial sent the CityZen offer to 100,000 consumers in Washington D.C., the company’s home town. LivingSocial chose the consumers who received the offer based on previous purchases that suggested they were enthusiastic about food, restaurants and new experiences.

The site hopes to expand LivingSocial Gourmet to such cities as San Francisco, New York and Chicago by the end of the year.

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