By Christina Golding
RESTAURANTS are being warned against paying out to a company asking for £19 a time for certificates of merit endorsed by a guidebook nobody has ever heard of.
Thousands of restaurants received letters last week saying they had been assessed and chosen for inclusion in the Good Restaurant Guide.
Calls have been flooding in to Caterer asking if the guide was authentic.
All the restaurants had received high ratings and were told they would get a free listing in the forthcoming guide.
But they were encouraged to buy a certificate of recommendation for £19, plus £10 for additional copies.
The company that sent the letters calls itself Saga Publishing, and operates from an address in St George's Road, east London.
But Kent-based Saga Publishing Ltd, subsidiary of the holiday company and publisher of a leisure magazine, said it had never heard of the company. It has instructed its lawyers to stop the unauthorised use of its name.
And the Consumers' Association, publisher of the Good Food Guide, also said its lawyers were looking into the matter (see Letters, page 22).
The address given in the letters is identical to that used by a company calling itself Rosenberg Publishing, which issued similar letters earlier this year for another guidebook it claimed to be producing, called the 1998 Good Café Guide.
And the signature at the bottom of the letters is in identical handwriting, although the names are different.
Callers to the telephone numbers given by the firm are greeted only by a recorded message.
Alan Sharp, a trading standards officer for Waltham Forest Council in east London, who is working with the CID, said that investigations had uncovered a bank account into which £12,000 had been paid in instalments of £19.
"We advise restaurants not to touch them with a bargepole," he said.