More than 100m meals were eaten as part of the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which ran through August, with chancellor Rishi Sunak confirming this helped protect some 1.8m jobs in hospitality.
Latest figures show that Eat Out to Help out significantly boosted restaurant bookings during the month of August, with the scheme growing in popularity each week.
By midnight on 31 August, when the scheme officially ended, the 84,700 establishments signed up to the scheme had made 130,000 claims worth £522m.
These numbers are likely to grow, with restaurants having until the end of September to claim back the 50% government-funded discount applied to bills.
“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,” Sunak comments.
“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.
“The scheme is just one part of our Plan for Jobs and we will continue to protect, support and create jobs to ensure we come back stronger as a nation.”
According to OpenTable data, restaurant bookings increased by an average of 53% on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout the whole of August, compared to the same days in 2019.
In July 2020, restaurant bookings were down 54% on average from Mondays to Wednesdays compared to July 2019.
On 31 August bookings were up 216% compared to the equivalent day in 2019.
And early signs show that despite ending, the scheme has continued to boost demand, with a 2% rise in restaurant bookings on Tuesday 1 September compared to the equivalent day in 2019, according to OpenTable; some restaurants are also choosing to extend the scheme at their own expense.
There had been an upward trend in the scheme’s popularity since it launched, with 10.5m meals claimed for in total in the first week, 35m meals in the second, 64m in the third and more than 100m by 31 August.
The scheme was used across the entire UK, with over 6m meals claimed for in Scotland, over 2m in both Wales and Northern Ireland and over 51m meals claimed for in England by 27 August.
Industry reacts to the scheme
“The Eat Out To Help Out scheme has been a great success for hospitality,” says Kate Nicholls, chief executive, UK Hospitality.
“Our members have reported very strong bookings throughout August at a time when the sector really needed a boost.
“It has helped provide a lift in consumer confidence which is going to be key for hospitality businesses as they look to reopen and help rebuild the economy.
“The scheme has provided a timely boost in trade which will have helped many businesses safeguard jobs all around the UK.
“The government’s furlough scheme underpinned our effort to save as many jobs as possible at Franco Manca and The Real Greek,” adds David Page, chairman of Fulham Shore, which operates the two brands.
“Eat Out to Help Out immediately increased our restaurant customer numbers by over 50%, thus enabling us to get all our staff back to work – in fact, we are now creating new jobs by hiring and training more people as fast as we can.”
Stephen Wall, managing director and co-founder of Pho has also shared his praise of the scheme, noting that his restaurants were staying busy throughout the weekend.
The Eat Out to Help Out scheme is one part of the Chancellor’s Plan for Jobs, announced last month.
Other measures announced to protect, support and create jobs include cutting VAT for tourism and hospitality by 15%, a £2bn Kickstart Scheme, which opened for applications this week, and an £8.8bn investment in new infrastructure, decarbonisation and maintenance projects.
This support for the hospitality sector comes on top of the government’s assistance for all businesses including through grants, tax deferrals, scrapping business rates, the furlough and self-employed support schemes and government-backed loans.