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Group deals startup Groupon is launching a new service called Groupon Reserve, the company announced today.

The service will focus exclusively on high-end deals from high-end merchants and may silence critics who complain that most of the deals from the company’s regular daily deals service aren’t good enough. The first deal is a $70 three-course tasting menu for two at New York restaurant Bice.

Select Groupon email list subscribers in New York received the following email message about the new service today:

As a member of Reserve, you will occasionally receive exclusive offers for premium experiences, like today’s offer to Bice. Hailed by the New York Times as “the handsomest Italian restaurant in town,” Bice serves up urbane Italian cuisine in an elegant dining space.

The move is also likely part of the startup’s strategy to convince investors that Groupon is still capable of growing and eventually turning a profit. Company executives are currently on the road trying to convince investors that the company’s future is secure before making an initial public offering, which is scheduled for November 4, 2011.

Along with the new Groupon Reserve service, Groupon also plans to replace the worst 10 percent of its more than 4,800-person sales team, according to a report from Reuters.

CEO Andrew Mason told potential investors Wednesday in Boston that the action was designed to improve the quality of the deals being offered. Groupon currently has 143 million subscribers, but only about 30 million of them bought a daily deal in the third quarter of 2011 [Update: VentureBeat contributor Rocky Agrawal tells us that these figures are incorrect and that more likely only about 17.6 million Groupon subscribers bought a daily deal in the third quarter].

The lack of repeat customers is startling because it could hinder rapid growth, which is basically the backbone of the company’s upcoming IPO valued at nearly $12 billion.


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