AROUND 6,500-odd restaurants, that are part of the Association of Hotel & Restaurant owners (AHAR) in Mumbai, are refusing to accept meal vouchers issued by Sodexo and Accor Services. The restaurant owners claim that the two firms are charging nearly 6% on food coupons, while the agreement states that they should not be charging more than 1.5%. These coupons are widely used by lakhs of employees in Mumbai.

Sodexo did not respond to the specific queries raised by ET. It, however, added that it had a “cordial relationship” with each of its affiliated partners. Accor Services India said: “We have not heard from any individual merchants on this issue, hence, it is difficult to comment on their position or feeling.”

Many companies that do not have a canteen facility provide employees with meal vouchers, which can be redeemed at designated restaurants or food outlets. The eateries, accepting these coupons, are reimbursed by the meal pass services companies — Sodexo and Accor in this case — after deducting their commissions. Many companies pay a small component of employees’ salaries by way of meal vouchers — up to a maximum of Rs 24,000 per annum — as these are not taxable.

According to the AHAR president Narayana M Alva, both the companies are violating the previously agreed terms. “We have received complaints from our members that Sodexo and Accor have been overcharging commissions, which are way above the agreement, from restaurants,” he said. “They have started levying listing charges, courier charges, etc, and the total charges work out to around 6%. However, as per the agreement, the maximum charge should not exceed 1.5%,” he said, adding that the two firms have not yet responded to their written complaints. Mr Alva’s contention is that such high rates are further putting pressure on the margins of restaurants, which are already witnessing a drop in customers….