Restaurants across the UK who participated in the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme are set to be investigated by the government’s fraud chiefs. This comes after reports that a number of eateries took advantage of the scheme by reducing their portion sizes but upping their prices during August.
HMRC will look into any reports of fraud and will have the power to take back any payments made to restaurants if they suspect that the scheme has been used unfairly. They have also encouraged members of the public to call the HMRC fraud hotline if they believe they have been duped.
A spokesperson for HMRC has said: “HMRC will risk-assess claims to protect against fraud, and will check claims and take appropriate action to withhold or recover payments found to be dishonest or inaccurate.
“Businesses are required to retain records to support Eat Out to Help Out claims. HMRC may compare claims to reported turnover and income in tax returns. You can report fraud to HMRC if you think an establishment is abusing the scheme.”
Meanwhile people have taken to Twitter to air their frustration about the reduced portion sizes, with one user saying: “So this #EatOutToHelpOut, funny how some restaurants have increased the prices and reduced the portion sizes and say ‘here you go, half-price.”
The Sun reports that the staff at a restaurant in Lambeth, South London, have admitted that portion sizes were cut, but prices were increased by around 20%.
The Eat Out to Help Out scheme ran from Mondays to Wednesdays throughout August and allowed customers to get a 50% discount of up to £10 off food and soft drinks when dining in. Although the last day of the scheme was officially on the Bank Holiday Monday, many restaurants have continued to give discounts and offers throughout September and further. This is despite the fact that they will no longer be receiving help from the government.
Some restaurants, however, withdrew from the scheme before the end of August, after seeing 'rude' and 'entitled' customers abusing the staff.
Looking to save your pennies but want to treat yourself to some food out? Check out London’s best cheap eats