While many local Georgetown businesses are increasingly using LivingSocial as a way of boosting sales, business owners described mixed experiences with the site.

Launched in 2007 by Georgetown alum Tim O’Shaughnessy (MSB ’04) and three others, LivingSocial is a social buying website that offers discounted vouchers for restaurants, movies and other activities.

Most Georgetown businesses that use LivingSocial are small-scale local takeout and delivery restaurants. Avocado Cafe, Wisey’s, Kitchen No. 1 and Wingo’s are among the restaurants that have chosen to place their menus on LivingSocial, often at heavily discounted prices.

According to Joey Chen, owner of Kitchen No. 1, a Chinese restaurant on O Street that offers takeout and delivery, LivingSocial has helped improve business significantly. “We needed more business … and LivingSocial made a positive contribution overall. More and more people have started looking at our great deals on LivingSocial, especially Georgetown students,” Chen said. “It has helped us a lot.”

But across the street at Wingo’s, Assistant Manager Bold Obi said that LivingSocial lacks the customer service and experience provided by online ordering sites such as GrubHub and Campusfood.

“LivingSocial is trying to do too much at once. They are trying to compete with Campusfood, but they haven’t been in the field as long as Campusfood has, so they don’t have as much experience,” Obi said. “To us, the system is too complicated, inconvenient and not user-friendly.”

Several D.C. businesses were upset by LivingSocial’s recent construction of a “pop-up” hosting venue at 918 F St., featuring such events as art classes and temporary restaurants.

“LivingSocial bases its business off of smaller businesses … but now they’re cutting out the merchants,” Michael Clements, chief creative enabler at Dupont Circle’s ArtJamz, said. “We wouldn’t have given them money or helped them build up their demographics if we knew that a year later, they would be our competition.”

But Doug Miller, LivingSocial’s senior vice president for new initiatives, told The Washington Post that the website’s goal is to foster local companies.

“Our space supports area business,” he told The Post in response to the criticism. “It’s really designed as a platform to bring local merchants together with members in a new way to create unique experiences.”

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