A quarter off my restaurant food bill in exchange for downloading an app and their “harvesting” (pun intended) some data about me? 

This was the promise made by Mitchells and Butlers Leisure Retail Ltd t/a Harvester to promote its app. The Harvester website offered “25% OFF FOOD” when users “SIGN UP TO THE HARVESTER APP”. It also offered new signatories “25% off mains” on their next visit. 

As part of their promotion, they also called themselves “the flavour experts”. As a chicken wings connoisseur, I think they are few steps away from the “expert” status. But I welcome alternative opinions!

A complainant challenged whether the claim “25% OFF FOOD” was misleading due to various exclusions. 

The promotion was valid for items on certain menus, but not others.  It also didn't apply to click and collect or delivery orders. The promotion also excluded bank holidays, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve and Valentine's Day. 

Harvester's response 

Harvester acknowledged that “25% OFF FOOD” “25% off mains on your next visit” was contradictory and rectified the error. 

They said that users could view the full terms and conditions which were issued alongside the discount voucher. 

Not clear enough 

The ASA was not moved by the response and considered the ad to be in breach of CAP Code rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising), and 3.9 (Qualification).

This was because it considered “25% OFF FOOD” as an absolute claim, meaning that all food would be included. Furthermore, no qualifying information was provided, nor was there a reference to terms and conditions made at the time of the offer.

Our spin 

As it often happens with similar promotions, the issue lies in the execution rather than the promotion itself. 

There is no problem with carving out certain exceptions to a promotion. However, marketers must be mindful that excessive carveouts risk the overall claim being labelled as misleading. In this instance, Harvester fell on the wrong side of the CAP Code by reinforcing the impression that it was 25% of ALL food, and failing to bring the key terms to users' immediate attention. 

The claim offered users to “Enjoy all your favourites for less”. With a reference to qualifications or terms and conditions being absent, an average consumer would take this claim literally and understand that any food order would come with a 25% discount. 

Whilst users were indeed made aware of the terms and conditions within the discount voucher, the damage was already done. This was because the exclusion of a significant number of menus and dates was considered “significant” by the ASA, which needed to be disclosed promptly,  to enable the app user to make a fully informed decision.