Sodexo meal coupons: Good bad and Ugly - eNidhi India Travel Blog

Sodexo meal coupons: Good bad and Ugly

Sep 2023 Updates
11 years after writing this post, I am back to using Sodexo. Now they have a digital card and app so it is a bit more easier, though acceptance in Udupi Managluru is still low. Not too many shops where I can use them.

Inflation has increased so much in past 12 years but Sodexo limit is still 2200 INR per month.

---- Original Post ----------

Lot of photo sharing in past few posts, time for some serious text. This post shares some thoughts on Sodexo meals coupon, which many retailers have stopped accepting

Why Sodexo?
Because of govt policy which allows tax exemption on money spent on food during working hours (Up to Rs 50 per meal), concept of meals coupons came into being. (Employee takes these coupons instead of cash, amount spent on these coupons, subject to max 3000 per month, is exempted from income tax. Depending on which tax bracket you fall, you may save up to 10-20 or 30% of this amount per month. Most of the IT companies give coupons worth Rs 2200 per month (assuming 22 working days and 2 meals per day), which effectively save about Rs 660 in tax, assuming employee is in 30% bracket.

The Sodexo network and coupon lifecycle:
Instead of giving cash to employees, company pays the amount to Sodexho (Say Rs 2200 per employee). Sodexo prints coupons for this amount and gives to employees. Employee takes these coupons to stores/restaurants which accept them, uses these as currency instead of cash. If he was to get cash he would have got only Rs 1600, now he can buy up to Rs 2200. Shopkeepers later redeem these coupons from Sodexo for cash.

Above lifecycle seems simple and straight forward, but below are some tricky catches in the mechanism:

Free Money for Sodexo: From the day Sodexo gets cash from companies and till the date they reimburse the amount to shopkeepers, Sodexo will have this entire amount, without paying any interest. This duration can be as long as 12 months at times. The amount of cash Sodexo gets at its disposal because of this scheme, from lakhs of employees from thousands of companies runs to billions of dollars and thus Sodexo will be one biggest beneficiary in this whole mechanism, as against employees, which was the original intention

Unclaimed and Expired/Damaged coupons: All coupons come with an expiry date. If not used by then or if lost or damaged, employee effectively looses on that amount. The cumbersome mechanism to get a new coupon issued for this amount is best left untouched and in all these cases, Sodexo gets to keep the entire money. (Clever right). I am sure at least 5-10% of the coupons issues will expire/get lost/get damaged.

Are you really saving by using Sodexo? Prima facie answer might be yes, but consider these:
·         Because you want to use Sodexo you drive to a far away supermarket instead of next street kirana store- you’re spending more time and fuel driving there
·         You spend lot of time in the queue at supermarket, because everyone wants to pay by Sodexo and it takes time counting these coupons
·         You buy stuff you don’t really need, just because you can use Sodexo OR because coupons are expiring and you need to use them somehow.
·         Shops don’t return change when you pay by higher denomination coupon. Thus you lose couple of rupees here and there
·         Some shops charge extra to accept Sodexo- 2-5%. You still don’t mind because you think your tax saving is higher than that.
·         Some coupons might get lost/damaged and you don’t want to go through the process of getting new ones
·         You may not always be in 30% tax bracket. If you’re in 10-20% bracket, all above factors make it much more sensible to pay by cash

Why Sodexo coupons are not digitized?
Given the technological advances, it would make much more sense for everyone involved (except may be for Sodexo) to issue a debit card like card which can be swiped to use Sodexo. I believe Sodexo corporation doesn’t favor this initiative because of following:
·         With Electronic cards, processing becomes faster. Which means Sodexo will have to reimburse money to shopkeepers much faster (no excuse of time required for collecting and processing these coupons manually)
·         With electronic cards, employees will have more control on their Sodexo currency. Chances of loss/expiry will be less
·         With electronic cards, Sodexo loses its status as alternate currency. At present, an employee can sell the coupon to others OR use it at local shop and local shopkeeper uses it at supermarket or a shopkeeper gives back a lower denomination Sodexo meal pass as change. All these will stop once coupons get digital
·         Electronic form allows employees to pay exact amount, without having forgo change.

Why shopkeepers are complaining?
Sodexo takes a cut from the coupons and pays a reduced amount to shopkeepers. If shopkeepers submit coupon for Rs 100, they get Rs 97 from Sodexo, after about 20-25 days of submitting the coupons. It is same with credit and debit cards, where banks take a small cut from the amount before paying merchants. (But the difference is, for credit and debit cards, most of the transaction is electronic, except for submitting charge slips). For shops like large restaurants having 20-30% margin, this 2-3% transaction charge doesn’t matter. But for other shops working on wafer thin margin, this cut and reimbursement time makes it an unprofitable mode of payment. Further, the news is that Sodexo is trying to increase the charge from 3% to 7% and increase processing time. The only reason shops accepted Sodexo was because their competitors was doing so and not accepting meant losing customers. When Sodexo strong arm tactics was unbearable, supermarkets teamed up and decided to stop accepting, so as to force Sodexo to revert to earlier norms.

Time it takes to count the coupons, possibility of fake/damaged coupons and administrative headache associated with it are other reasons why shops hesitate to accept Sodexo. Migrating to a smart card based system is the best solution to all stakeholders, except for Sodexo

Can we do without Sodexo?
Meals vouchers were supposed to be used inside the company campus, but they’re being used everywhere, for food and non food items, defying the original intent. Any tax paying individual is guaranteed to spend Rs 2200+ per month on meals and food items, so it will be good to all parties if Governments realize this and simply increase standard deduction by corresponding amount, saving all the headache for employees, companies, shops. Only company suffering from such a decision will be Sodexo, so it is very likely to exercise its influence to resist any efforts of eliminating Sodexo as a middle man. Even if Sodexo is to exist, employees should consider the actual savings after factoring in the points mentioned earlier. Since most companies have cafeteria, it should be easy for companies to issue coupons which are valid only at company cafeteria, thereby serving the true intent of the scheme.

Also read: iMint Cards (now Payback)* An Analysis of MLM * SpeakAsia *


  1. well researched informative post on sodexo

  2. Informative Article Nidhi. Only thing worries me is the coupons which are already accumulated and many vendors are not accepting it! :(

  3. Sodexo already introduced the Prepaid card in most of the Europe instead of paper vouchers . In Asia also they are launching the card soon. The usage of this card is restricted based on time/date and merchants category.

  4. Readitt: Thanks

    Raveesh: yes, it is a risk accumulating them till last minute (expiry date)

    Anon: let us wait for it to come to Asia

  5. Nice info Nidhi. It's a very valid point you have mentioned about why Sodexo is not going for a debit card (kinda) system.
    Thanks for the info..

  6. I cannot understand why do we need such coupans. Everyone needs to eat and one needs to pay for that. Why tax concession only if we use meal coupans.

    In our campus, Sodexo has provided card (similar to debit card) but can only be used in Office canteen. And the caterer is Sodexo (Previously RKHS)!!

  7. nicely analyzed and written .. your post has more depth than the articles in Economic Times :)

    company specific coupons and some prepaid currency utilizing magnetic strips/chips in access cards is way to go !

    manual counting of coupons were not only headache to person buying items but also people who used to stand behind in the queue.

    let's do away with this unproductive activity i.e counting of coupons.

  8. Shande you made my day :)

    Arvind: we had RKHS card at Satyam long long ago...

  9. I heard from one of my friend in Bangalore that the traffic police accepted Sodexho coupons as bribe as he fell short of money. Another way of using these coupons..:)

  10. very nice informative article.. i remember once I paid an autowallah thru Ticket coupon in the mid of the night as I did not have change for Rs. 500. had a hard time convincing him to accept... :)

  11. Reddy garu,
    that incident of police taking sodexho for bribe is true.

    Thanks for sharing

  12. Nidhi..A comprehensive and informative article.

  13. hi,
    if anyone willing to sell sodexo coupons at 10% discount can contact me.


  15. Congrats on this article. It is high time the Government finds an alternative to this. But that is highly unlikely, given that so many scams have surfaced. And maybe this one also becomes a scam if delved further into this.

    Nice piece of information!!!

  16. Once a shopkeeper told me they stopped accepting sodexo by the time of billing. It was about 2000 rupees. I had enough cash to pay that day and I escaped the situation. I used to buy regular in that shop using sodexho. The shop keepers have removed the stickers of sodexho. But I failed to notice because of other advertisement stickers. They have not kept any board or so. When I tried asking about that he showed no interest in listening to me. From that day I never go that shop again.

  17. Excellent article. Sodexo and Accor coupons can be eliminated only by joint efforts of retail segment.

  18. anybody wanting to sell any meal coupons can contact me at 9653783614.

  19. Any one want to purchase sodex meal pass Booklet of 2000Rs Valid till Dec-2013 @Rs2000 Pls SMS me on 9004058896
    Note :- Only for Mumbai people

  20. Nice article. One thing which i find un-explained, is, Sodexo is printing this coupons and selling them (it involves manpower and cost to print as well as distributue). As they are making a sale (earning money), they need to pay tax as well (probably 10-30%). Now, if they are making a cut of even 3%, how are they in business?

  21. I guess they're getting tax exemption too?

  22. Dear Nidhi,

    First let me congratulate you on a very comprehensive article. Although I do not agree with all the points because of the following points:-
    Its not that I have anything to with Sodexo but because I believe in people should know the right thing and as a vendor I have been accepting Sodexo Vouchers:
    1) Sodexo has a set reimbursement calendar and asks all the outlets to submit the voucher by then. We do not even have to go anywhere, their people come and collect it and within a few days the money is directly transferred in our account so there is no free money available for Sodexo.
    2) Expired & Damaged Vouchers - SOdexo replaces and re validates vouchers that have expired or are damaged, for this a person just has to submit the vouchers to his or her HR team and route it to SOdexo through them. The fresh vouchers are given with a minimum validity of 1 year. If you cannot use a voucher in ! year then you are stupid.
    3) Sodexo offers customized denomination to curb the problem of not getting back change.
    4) If any shop is charging you extra and you complain to the Sodexo people they immediately derecognize the outlet and offer an alternative.

    You raised a point of why SOdexo vouchers are digitized so let me tell you that if you notice the Meal Law a few years back and the one active right now there is a difference. The earlier one had the word "Electronic voucher" mentioned in it. The new law has that word omitted and only "paper voucher" is mentioned. SO the electronic cards do not have a legal backing.
    Sodexo in my experience is a very ethical client and also very strict on their KYC norms. They are ready to loose business but don't go against the law of the land to make money and that is the reason all my 25 shops in Maharashtra accept the vouchers and get paid without any trouble.

    The reason why Major supermarket chains were complaining were because since the have a bigger lobby they tried to bring SOdexo to its knees by stopping the acceptance of Sodexo vouchers without any prior notification which is a very unethical thing. Yes Sodexo charges 3% from its outlets but that is fair, how else do you expect it to be in business and pay the salaries of their employees.
    It is not the Meal vouchers that are supposed to be used in company campus, it the electronic cards. All the Sodexo electronic cards used by its clients are only used in their campus and you can check with major IT companies.
    I hope that being a blogger and writer you would authorize this so people know the real scenario and not the one that is projected.

  23. wanting to sell sodexo meal coupons against cash , can contact me at 9938398687.

    Note: Better for odisha

  24. hi,
    if anyone willing to sell sodexo coupons at 8% discount can contact me.

    Note: Better for odisha

  25. Any body willing to sell sodexo at 9% please cont me 9891724312

  26. I would like to request our Employer to get sodexho meal pass for certain group of employees falling under 20%-30% Tax bracket. If sodexho charges any Service Tax on coupons' worth,then i am afraid that employer may hesitate. Can anyone clarify whether Svc Tax is applicable?

  27. I have coupon for 5900 need to sell it ,please contact me 7827722626

  28. Perfect explanation of pains.

    Govt plays a fool by allowing such middle man to create madness among masses.

    It gives a sense of being a tax beggar. If we can pay 5 Lakh as tax and then all such drama to save 7000 INR?

  29. Since this is a paper, is there any option to get it replaced if it got damaged while tearing?

  30. Since this is a paper, is there any way to get the paper replaced if it get damaged while tearing or will the employee lose her money due to this damage paper

  31. There is a process but it is super complicated and will cost lots of time and effort,so most won't bother..

    Easy money for Sodexho and one of the reason why they will never launch an electronic version

  32. Why these corrupt practice is not being challenged is a surprise. Sodexo is getting tax exemption at par with schemes that are meant to increase GDS of country. What commercial benefit country gets by these tax treatment?

    ANswer is nothing.

  33. Yes Hemant. Nothing has changed since last 4 years when I wrote this post. Lots of things have gone digital since then, but Sodexho still is in the form of physical coupons.

  34. My vouchers were valid upto 31dc2015
    It's mentioned on the back side of the vouchers that the affiliate shops can reimburse the vouchers upto 31jan2016
    Any way of shops accepting my vouchers
    Is there any such procedure where the transaction date will be recorded ? Te shops still have time of a month to get back their money from Sodexo
    Kindly suggest n help

  35. I doubt transaction date is recorded anywhere- that is an agreement between Sodexho and shopkeepers- because some processing time is involved between you buying at the shop and shop getting money from Sodexho, another month is included.

    You can go request shopkeeper to accept the coupon as he will still be able to claim the money. But if they refuse, you should probably contact Sodexho itself for re-issue

  36. Dearest NIdhi,

    It was a good article but it is quite incomplete - the essence of laissez faire or free market is buyer and seller matching the goods and prices. Sodexo restriction to one market/cafeteria kills that. A farfetched proposition but bear with me - If the company gives you one lakh per month just for your meals on the condition that the amount be spent only in its cafeteria (that too on beefed up pricing?) - how would you like that ?

    I do not disagree with the concept of sodexo ? why should something as basic as food be taxed , however I do hate the way it is implemented.

  37. According to me Sodexo Meals coupon is not at all necessary and giving Deduction in income for the purpose of sodexo is not a justifiable thing. When people are in work, any how they are going to have their lunch, snacks or tiffin. If that food they buy by using hot cash instead of Sodexo coupon what difference it is going to make out. My company does not provide me sodexo coupons, However I spend everyday Rs.100 & above for lunch. But I am not getting any deduction in Income. It is a Impartiality to the Income tax assesses. Moreover, this sodexo involve huge burden of paper work. Company (Employer) has to estimate the value of coupon books to be bought and order to the sodexo, receive the coupon booklets safely, from sodexo and distribute to employees and obtain signature for having distributed the coupon booklets. Then employee to go in search of the restaurant where the coupon is accepted, have his food there instead of his favourite restaurant. Many people bring home made food to office, so they use that coupons for buying provisions for home and for buying other non food items. In some companies they provide free lunch at company's canteen under these circumstances issuing sodexo to the employees and providing tax benefits on that is highly unjustifiable. Some employees (especially market people) go on business trip for many days and they will get perdiem and food allowance for all 3 time meals, tiffin or snacks. Under these circumstance, how it correct to give tax exemption for the sodexo coupons not spent for food during the office hours. Sodexo not only collects the money from the employees in advance and retain it till the coupon is encashed (I think they may earn Interest Income on the cash received by virtue of supply of those coupons and by investing the money)by restaurants and also they levy commission charges on the restaurants for giving cash in exchange of the coupons. Also, they levy administrative charges to company for printing and despatching the coupons. These sodexo coupons many time given as a change in the absence of currency change in the restaurants. These kind of un-authorized circulation of sodexo pass coupon in lieu of money is illegal. Moreover, in our country, we do not have sophisticated and highly advanced systems like scanning the sodexo pass after it tendered in to the restaurant. Through scanning of sodexo pass, the information should reach to the sodexo pass issuer computer servers, so that those sodexo pass coupons be prevented from circulating again among the public. If somebody un-authorizedly re-circulate the coupons among the public, when it is already used / tendered at a restaurant, when the next restaurant on scanning the coupon, server should reject that coupon. By considering all these disadvantages, I feel sodexo not at all necessary for our country. Moreover, in my opinion it acts as an alternative for money. And one more important point also I wanted convey here, since sodexo is charging commission on the restaurant there is more possibility that the restaurants will increase their food price in order to compensate the expenses they are incurring by paying commission to the sodexo. This is un-necessary economic burden to the consumer.

  38. hii nidhi, an informative post, thanx for sharing. Just wanted to know is the reimbursement mechanism true or fake and why it takes a lot of time to pay the vendors

  39. @Ritika- If reimbursement was fake, shops wouldn't be accepting it.

    It takes lots of time because Sodexho prefers to delay the process as much as possible so that they get to keep the money longer. If they can automate the process, they can settle much faster, but they are not keen for obvious reasons

  40. hey thanx for d reply, just needed to know how u hav so much of knowledge abt Sodexo...

  41. @Ritika

    I do not claim to be an expert in Sodexo. I was using these coupons for sometime, have colleagues who use them and lots of information is already in public domain- such as news as to why shops once refused to accept it (because of unfavorable terms) and so on. This post is a derivative of information and experience from above.

    If there is anything wrong or if you have updated information do share.

  42. Hii, no nothing wrong is dere, but came across these coupons from 1.1.16 and needed to gather information on how they can be encashed...Thanx for d help

  43. You can go to any supermarket or restaurant which accepts them and pay using the same. Check with your friends/colleagues for shops that accept these, near your area

  44. yes, some restaurants n supermarkets do accept is said that God helps only those who help wanted some info about d meal pass nd i think i hav done it....Thanx for all the help. :)

  45. Thanks.It is very informative. I need to know more about the procedure to get exchanged the damaged coupons...

  46. sir/ma'am, dere is no procedure for damaged coupons. dey cannot b accepted by restaurants or food retail stores, only dis much i know, u cn gather more info on d sodexo website, hope u'l b helped...

  47. Thanks Ritika

    Yes, they don't consider damaged coupons their responsibility...

  48. 1.I have found Sodexo meal Pass card not usable at all in many restaurants or super markets which i use or prefer to use!Ex: BBDaily, Dmart..etc..So,what use if they allow in those far away super markets where we have to take time and efforts in reaching and spending more on petrol.

    2.I honestly feel they are pretty useless, Infact BBDaily give upto 300 Rs discount so many time in a year when we recharge the wallet using some Bank's credit cards(Citi Bank).With Sodexo,we never get any such discounts.

    3.Of Swiggy and Zomato accept these cards..But,can we keep ordering food through swiggy worth 2200 rs per month just because of this?

    4.Sodexo has to atleast extend the outlets they have in their list and include more useful outlets in future


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