The owners of Pan Asian restaurant chain Cosmo have put up a £10,000 reward to find the person responsible for distributing a fake news article that claimed their Bristol restaurant had been shut down by environmental health officers for serving dog meat.
James Brion, director of Cosmo Restaurants, which operates 10 sites in England and Wales, said the affected branch had received 50 calls from concerned customers who'd received the leaflet through their letterboxes three weeks ago.
He said: “One of our regulars bought in the leaflet and we were shocked at its inaccuracy. The grammar and punctuation were also appalling and the name of the newspaper was one in Los Angeles, so it was evidently created by someone who is not associated with a newspaper.
“We still took it seriously, however and called in the environmental health to inspect us. We’ve still got our three stars for cleanliness.”
Brion said the impact of the leaflet on the restaurant’s business so far had been minor, but he wanted to catch the culprit before it could cause any potential damage to other sites.
“Fortunately we are still very busy,” he said. “It hasn’t really affected us as a business, but it has affected the staff who have to deal with the calls from the public.”
Brion believes whoever has written and distributed the leaflets could be envious of the restaurant chain’s success. Last week, the chain, known for its ‘value for money offering’ served 26,000 covers across its 10 sites and regularly has queues of customers outside.
The restaurant chain, planning to open another six sites in the UK next year, will now distribute its own leaflets, confirming it is open, around Bristol and is appealing for any information that can help them find the culprit.
“If we find out who it is I will sue them as you can’t put things out there like this,” said Brion.
“I know another Asian restaurant chain that was hit by a similar scam and two of their six restaurants did have to close down. That’s why I’m offering the reward and putting out a leaflet because you can’t afford to let it put off potential customers.”
Cosmo also operates sites in Cardiff, Coventry, Swindon, Tunbridge Wells, Eastbourne, Hastings, Chatham and Romford and is planning to open its largest site in Croydon next year.