A Sydney restaurant is playing with fire after it released a controversial Anzac Day-themed flyer featuring the Southern Cross.

In a move criticised as "entirely unacceptable", the Japanese restaurant, Toko, sent an email to its subscribers this week advertising its opening hours on the public holiday.

The flyer included the words "Anzac Day" and "Lest we forget", as well as an image of the Southern Cross.

The restuarant's management has argued the flyer was letting guests know it was open, but critics have said any form of commercial advertising for the public holiday was in poor taste.

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A spokesman for the Returned & Services League said the advertising was inappropriate.

Honorary Secretary George Fisher from the Organisation's City of Sydney branch told news.com.au businesses that use Anzac Day advertising for profit are exploiting something which all Australians hold dear.

"Businesses that do this are flogging the system. They need to be pulled into line," he said. "They're saying 'Lest we forget ... and also bring your money with you because we need it'. It's a bit naughty, isn't it?

"(These businesses) are obviously taking advantage of something which is very sacred to everyone."

But he did say there were two points of view to consider: "At least they're still paying tribute. And obviously they won't be opening before 1pm."

In a statement to news.com.au, Toko general manager Paul Birtwistle said the restaurant did not offer Anzac Day promotions, and sent the flyer to notify customers it would be open for business on the holiday.

"You will see from our flyer that we certainly do not offer 'promotions', nor promote our venue other than by letting our customers know that we are open. Should you visit our restaurant, you will not see Anzac related posters or advertising," Birtwistle said.

"Every year in the lead-up to Anzac Day, we receive multiple inquiries from our patrons asking whether or not we are open for dinner on Anzac Day. To assist our guests, we send an email to our database prior, to let them know that we are open for dinner only."

Spinach Advertising media director Ben Willee, who recently penned a piece for Mumbrella calling for brands to stop muscling in on Anzac Day, believes it's a disrespectful practice.

"It's entirely unacceptable," he told news.com.au. "It's completely at odds with the feelings of the general public, who want to see respect for the solemnity of Anzac Day."

He said that while he understands it's natural for marketing teams and businesses to capitalise on public events and use them as a hook for their messages, Anzac Day should be treated with extra caution.

"Businesses need to be aware that the backlash will come in very quickly, and it will stay long after the few dollars you've made from exploiting it," he said.

"The right way to do it is to just not do it.

"Right now, there's likely to be a marketing team sitting around the boardroom table spitballing how they can piggyback off Anzac Day and to them I say, 'stop'," Willee wrote in the article.

"Put yourselves in the shoes of the average Australian and ask yourself how they would feel about your actions. Are they likely to see them as exploitative?

"If you want to focus on an event, Mother's Day is just around the corner. Double down on that. Alternatively, take the money you were going to put into what is guaranteed to be a botched marketing initiative and donate it to a charity such as Soldier On, Legacy or Young Diggers who do fantastic work supporting returned veterans."

In a statement, CEO Legacy NSW Associated Clubs John Hutcheson said: "Legacy encourages everyone to take part in Anzac Day, and asks that while Australians remember veterans, past and present, that they also think of the families left behind."

Event Cinemas has come under fire after Karl Stefanovic slammed the organisation for moving its release date of the highly anticipated Avengers: Infinity War to the solemn national holiday.

"Films traditionally in this country open on a Thursday, that is when Dickie has his movie review. Everyone knows it," he said.

"Well, Event Cinemas bringing the release a day early smacks, to me, of a grubby cash grab. Well, grab your cash somewhere else, exploit another day.

"Not on what I believe is the most important day on our nation's calendar. How on earth are our kids supposed to breathe in the significance of Anzac Day, the sacrifices, the great sacrifices, the impact on our nation, on our families?

"Pretty hard to do with a $25 popcorn and choc-top, I would have thought. I don't think so."

A Woolworths Anzac campaign was widely criticised in 2015 for using Anzac Day to promote its goods and services. Photo / Supplied
A Woolworths Anzac campaign was widely criticised in 2015 for using Anzac Day to promote its goods and services. Photo / Supplied

There are rules around using the word Anzac in a commercial context. The Department of Veterans' Affairs states that using the word "Anzac" in an official or corporate manner requires permission from the Minister for Veterans' Affairs.

But it also noted the regulation did not apply in a number of specific circumstances, such as when the term "Anzac Day" was used in connection with events or entertainment held in the Anzac period.

"The restaurant's use of the word 'Anzac' to refer to 25 April and note its opening hours does not require the permission of the Minister for Veterans' Affairs," a DVA spokesman told news.com.au.

"The department does ask commercial entities to be sensitive to community sentiment in their use of 'Anzac Day'. The phrase 'Lest we forget' is not trademarked or governed by the minister or Department of Veterans' Affairs and no permission is required for its use."

In 2015, Woolworths came under fire over its infamous "Fresh in our Memories" campaign, which linked Anzac commemorations to the retailer's "Fresh Food People" tag line.

Then veterans' affairs minister Michael Ronaldson said the supermarket chain would not have been given permission for the advertising had it been sought.