Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s ‘eat out to help out’ offer was taken up by over 100 million people during the month of August, the government has revealed.
Restaurant owners reported a surge in bookings as a result of the stimulus programme which was designed to boost the hospitality sector. The whole industry was badly affected during lockdown by the closure of pubs, restaurants and cafes during the coronavirus pandemic.
Diners received a state-backed 50 per cent discount on meals and soft drinks up to €11.2 (£10) each between Mondays and Wednesdays in August. The final day of the scheme, which was Monday August 31, venues experienced a 216 per cent jump in bookings compared to the equivalent day in 2019, according to initial data compiled from the OpenTable booking app. At the end of closing on Monday, some 130,000 claims were made by 84,700 restaurants who had signed up to the programme, with total claims costing around €626 (£522 million).
The Chancellor said: “From the get-go, our mission has been to protect jobs, and to do this we needed to be creative, brave and try things that no government has ever done before. Today’s figures continue to show Eat Out to Help Out has been a success. I want to thank everyone, from restaurant owners to waiters, chefs and diners, for embracing it and helping drive our economic recovery.”
However, the scheme was not without its critics. Some pubs and restaurants pulled out of the scheme in August, citing hostility towards staff trying to cope with the increased demand and the need for social distancing. Other outlets were concerned the scheme could attract diners earlier in the week only to lose their weekend trade.