Back in July, Rishi Sunak in all his glory announced the government’s ‘eat out to help out scheme’ with the objective “supporting the 1.8 million people working in [the hospitality] industry”.
The scheme, which runs from the 3rd of August to the 31st, allows customers to claim a 50% discount on food and non-alcoholic drinks when they eat in on Monday to Wednesday, up to a maximum of £10.
Sunak’s plan came hot on tails of the successes of the government-funded furlough scheme – now, the chancellor has his sights set on the hospitality industry.
The chancellor’s initiative follows a June report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Hospitality and Tourism stating that “[the] hospitality and tourism sectors have been two of the hardest hit by COVID-19”, with just 11% of hospitality businesses able to operate normally during lockdown.
Moreover, the Centre for Economics and Business Research estimates that pubs and eateries in London alone lost £2.3b between March and June due to lockdown restrictions and public apprehension about eating out.
“The industry is a vital ingredient to our economy”, says Sunak. “Our ‘eat out to help out’ scheme’s number one aim is to help protect the jobs of 1.8m chefs, waiters and restauranteurs.” The government aims to achieve this by “boosting demand and getting customers through the door.”
And it’s working: according to the CEBR, ‘eat out to help out’ has seen diner numbers “surpass pre-lockdown levels by a quarter,” increasing by an average of 26.9% for Monday-Wednesday year on year. Thursday-Sunday (the days when the scheme is not running) have seen less of an increase, but the average change is now just -7.6% compared to the -28.2% in the week before the scheme started. Sunak reports that 10.5m meals were claimed in the first three days alone.
Elizabeth Martins, senior UK economist at HSBC, says that “anecdotal evidence suggests that [‘eat out to help out’] has made a real difference at a relatively small cost to the public purse.” Some, like Nick Mackenzie, chief executive of the Greene King pub group, have urged ministers to extend the scheme due to its widespread success.
Whilst the original objective of the scheme was purportedly to assist businesses and workers, Nina Skero, chief executive of CEBR believes that the real impact of ‘eat out to help out’ has been getting the public “back into the habit of socialising, making none-essential journeys and being surrounded by groups of strangers.”
“It is arguably this push towards normality,” says Skero, “that will prove the biggest benefit of the scheme.”