Flipping through the hot new Downtown dining app Lux Delux on a weekday afternoon in Radio City Pizza, I notice that the restaurant is one of 60 or 70 featured.
“I see you’re on Lux Delux,” I ask my bartender. “How’s the response been?” The question is more than just an excuse to strike up conversation with a cute, heavily tattooed bartender half my age. I’m actually preparing to meet with the app’s creator, Andrew Hsieh (brother of Tony), to interview him about the project. And I have my doubts.
Tattooed bartender reassures me the response has been great. All of her customers have been talking about Downtown’s latest technological marvel. “But how many orders have you taken through it?” I ask.
“Actually,” she says, “I don’t think I’ve seen any.”
I’m not surprised. I’m notoriously skeptical about both the Downtown dining scene and any next-big-thing technology that every hipster is excited about. And Lux Delux combines the two.
The app is intended to be a guide to Downtown dining. It provides users access to a handpicked group of the area’s “best” restaurants. You can browse menus and, after registering your credit card, place an order for pickup or delivery. Hsieh’s company handles the entire process, making them fully accountable for any problems that might arise. There’s no minimum order amount, and the service charge is just 99 cents. At first glance, it’s a Downtown diner’s dream. And once you’ve played with it a little, it’s clearly more ambitious and fine-tuned than national competitors such as GrubHub.
The only problem is, I can’t practically use its most ambitious feature—delivery. And neither can a lot of people who live, work or visit Downtown. Because Lux Delux only delivers to about 30 locations, and only on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. If you want your lunch delivered to City Hall, The Smith Center, Container Park or (of course) Zappos headquarters, this app is going to rock your world. But if you’re at a private home or a even small business within the delivery zone, you’re out of luck. And even residents of Lux Delux drop-off spots such as the 8th Street Apartments and Soho Lofts will have to call the restaurants directly if they want dinner or a weekend lunch delivered.
Hsieh insists the product is only weeks into beta testing; the number of restaurants and drop-off points are continually expanding. And within the next few months he anticipates expanded delivery hours and access from any address. But he doesn’t want to take on too much too soon.
“We want to roll this out very incrementally and make sure everything is fine-tuned before we take it to the next level,” he tells me during a meeting at Rachel’s Kitchen, one of the restaurants that can be accessed through the app.
In the meantime, he points out, even Downtown visitors who can’t use the delivery service can take advantage of Lux Delux to place takeout orders, or even just to get to know the dining options in the area. “It’s such a great way to discover Downtown,” he explains. “Every time I talk to someone they’re like, ‘I didn’t even know there were this many restaurants in Downtown.’”
Given his family connections and his experience working at Zappos, it’s no surprise Hsieh sees this as part of a larger Downtown plan.
“Food is a very social and community-based event. People love to eat together,” he tells me toward the end of our discussion. “It’s really what connects people. And that’s really kind of what Downtown, The Downtown Project and Zappos are all about. It’s about connecting people. It’s about building that community.”
Today, that community is a bit too limited and fraternal for my taste. But the customer service I’ve received while playing around with the app has been exceptional. And there’s no arguing the fact the Hsieh family knows how to get things done quickly. So I’m anxious to check in with more bartenders and servers in a few months, and see how things progress.