UK restaurants offer 'free' food

London, Feb 3 : Recession-hit restaurants in Britain have started offering free food and major discounts to entice customers, many of whom have stopped eating out frequently following job losses and salary cuts.

Offering free food was one of the ways of beating recession in the 1980s, and restaurant owners hope it will again do the trick now. The innovative offers come amidst reports that hundreds of Indian and other restaurants have closed shop in recent months.

The offer of free food is premised on the belief that customers would be too embarrassed not to leave behind money after dinner. Restaurants owners believe that except students, most customers would not leave without leaving money behind.

The menu card at The Little Bay in Farringdon in London does not mention prices for dishes. Customers pay only for the drinks.

Restaurant owner Peter Ilic said, "You can leave 50 pounds or nothing; it doesn't matter, I will treat you the same," he said, and claimed that it was not a desperate measure to beat the steep fall in business.

According to the latest PricewaterhouseCoopers report on Hospitality and Leisure, 141 restaurants closed down in the final quarter of 2008. In total, 363 restaurants suffered insolvency in 2008 – a 32 per cent rise on the year before.

Faced with supermarkets offering cheaper ready meals, Indian restaurants too have taken to innovative measures to revive business. These include reducing prices and packages offering 'eat as much as you can' prices.