Throw away all those soy sauce-stained takeout menus.
Online deals site LivingSocial is unveiling an Internet food-ordering service. Hungry customers will be able to use it to order tacos, burgers or Pad Thai from participating restaurants over the Internet for pickup or delivery.
Aptly called "Takeout & Delivery," the service replaces LivingSocial's instant-deals site, which offered real-time discounts with tight time constraints. LivingSocial says that service was a testing ground for its new, food-focused offering.
The service is launching Thursday in 26 U.S. markets, including Atlanta, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco. The two largest, Los Angeles and New York, are coming later, along with the rest of the markets that LivingSocial serves.
LivingSocial will compete with Seamless.com and others that let people place food orders online and avoid the phone. Demand for such services has grown as people conduct more of their lives online.
Greg Mazanec, general manager of LivingSocial's new service, described phone takeout orders as a "sometimes painful experience" that requires fishing for a menu in a drawer, giving out credit card information and often getting put on hold and speaking to someone who is distracted.
Mazanec said restaurants won't have to pay to join LivingSocial's service, but they will give LivingSocial an unspecified cut of the revenue they bring in through the site. Mazanec said the amount is negotiated with each restaurant.
People using the takeout and delivery service must have a LivingSocial account, which is free to set up. That's because they will pay with a credit card on file. They don't have to sign up for the company's daily deals emails.
Jesse Mencow, manager of a Tex-Mex restaurant called California Tortilla, said the service helps simplify ordering for takeout and deliveries. The Tex-Mex restaurant has been testing the service along with other restaurants in Washington D.C., where LivingSocial is headquartered. Mencow said the service has helped attract new customers.
LivingSocial's biggest competitor, Groupon Inc., also has been looking into ways to expand beyond its daily emails. It has an instant-deals service called Groupon Now and recently launched an online scheduling tool that lets customers book appointments with small businesses more easily.