Embarrassing way we spent $25 vouchers
Movie snacks, Hungry Jack's burgers and fried chicken from KFC have been revealed as the top choices for NSW residents using government restaurant vouchers to pay for food.
Figures obtained by NCA NewsWire show that movie theatres, fast food chains and pubs make up the top 10 food businesses where the state's Dine and Discover vouchers have been spent.
Hungry Jacks beat KFC for the third spot with the chicken chain placing fourth.
The $25 vouchers were announced as part of last year's state budget and were designed to boost the state's pandemic-affect economy, providing NSW residents with two vouchers worth a total of $50 to spend on food and another pair worth $50 combined to spend on entertainment.
Small business owner Philip Barbaro of the Avenue on Chifley cafe in Sydney's central business district said he was frustrated a large part of the taxpayer money was flowing towards multinational chains.
"Not much is coming through the CBD, and that's a problem," he said
"A lot of money goes to multinational companies. It's frustrating, you know? I thought it was all about supporting local businesses."
NSW shadow treasurer Walt Secord said there was a "disproportionate" number of fast food places on the top 10 list and he thought it was because the state government had made it too difficult for smaller restaurants to take part.
"The big corporates had the technology, staff and resources to hoover up the Dine and Discover vouchers, but family operations struggled," Mr Secord said.
"I don't begrudge the KFCs and the Hungry Jacks restaurants, but a tiny family Indian restaurant in Parramatta just couldn't fight their way through the jungle of red tape."
Obesity Policy Coalition executive Jane Martin said it showed how much influence fast food chains had.
"While the vouchers are a great initiative to get people out and about and spending in the city again, that fact that fast food chains are at the top the list highlights the powerful influence of their marketing, pricing and the convenience of their outlets," she said.
She said two thirds of Australian adults and a quarter of children were above a healthy weight and that the country's pandemic recovery should be focused on promoting health.
"This includes supporting and promoting families and children to eat more fruits and vegetables, and to eat less unhealthy food," she said.
The rest of the top ten was mostly populated with pubs, including chain The Wests Group in fifth place, which is a Newcastle-based non-profit organisation that operates a number of clubs, pubs and restaurants in the Hunter Region.
The Fiddler Hotel in Rouse Hill in western Sydney came in sixth place. The pub, owned by property developer Lewis Land Group, offers diners a complimentary food voucher worth $25 for every Dine and discover voucher used, meaning the value would be doubled.
The US-inspired diner chain Pancakes on the Rocks came in seventh place, followed by pub chain Bavarian Beerhaus, which is part of restaurant group Pacific Concepts.
Country pub Camden Valley Inn located outside Campbelltown took the ninth spot, while Bankstown Sports, one of the country's biggest registered clubs operating over a dozen different eateries, took spot number 10.
The state's peak business association Business NSW said members were generally positive about the program.
"We've heard lots of good reports from members," spokesman Damian Kelly said.
"Lots of people are spending more than $25, which is what the program was designed to do."
Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello, who is responsible for the program, said eligible businesses could still register.
"The program is popular with families and giving some of the state's hardest hit businesses much needed stimulus," he said.
"Whether it's enjoying a meal at a cafe, seeing a movie or visiting a wildlife park, the vouchers are stimulating local economies by getting more customers through the doors of businesses."
The owner of Chatswood's Apothecary Cafe said the program was "wonderful".
"It's done exactly what it set out to do," Dane Ross said.
His cafe in the business hub had previously struggled during last year's lockdowns but the vouchers had been a big help, he said.
"I can't speak for KFC or Hungry Jacks and how they performed during the pandemic, all I know is for my business the vouchers have been a godsend."
KFC and Hungry Jacks have been contacted for comment.
TOP 10 "DINE" BUSINESSES
- Hoyts Theatres
- Event Cinemas
- Hungry Jacks
- The Wests Group Australia
- The Fiddler Hotel
- Pancakes on the Rocks
- The Bavarian Beerhaus
- Camden Valley Inn
- Bankstown Sports Club
TOP 10 "DISCOVER" BUSINESSES
- Event Cinemas
- Hoyts Theatres
- Taronga Conservation Society Australia
- Sydney Zoo
- Zone Bowling
- Sea Life Sydney Aquarium
- Reading Cinemas Rhodes
- United Cinemas Opera Quays
- Scenic World Blue Mountains
Originally published as Embarrassing way we spent $25 vouchers