Eat Out to Help Out gets Britains out to eat

More than 64 million meals have been enjoyed under the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme in the UK in August, with one day (Monday) left to go.

New figures published by the Treasury revealed restaurants have claimed for more than 64 million discounted meals since August 3, highlighting a rise in footfall and sales across the industry.

Some 87,000 businesses signed up to the initiative, which allowed diners 50 per cent off up to the value of £10 per head Monday to Wednesday over the course of the month.

Additional data from the restaurant booking service OpenTable showed that during the third week of the scheme, the number of customers at UK restaurants was an average of 61 per cent higher than the same days last year. The average increase across Monday to Wednesday in the first and second weeks were 12 per and 41 per cent respectively.

The figures published by The Treasury have shown 10.5 million meals claimed in the first week, increasing to 35 million in the second.

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak designed the scheme to stimulate Britain’s ailing economy. By encouraging people to dine out, it is hoped the 1.8 million hospitality sector jobs will be supported and redundancies will be kept to a minimum.

Sunak said the figures show that the British public is continuing to back hospitality and are “equivalent to nearly every person in the country dining out to protect jobs”.

He added: “This scheme has reminded us how much we love to dine out, and in doing so, how this is helping to protect the jobs of nearly two million people who work in hospitality.”

A further poll by YouGov revealed that 35 per cent of people surveyed said they plan to dine out “about the same” amount as they have been during August once the scheme has come to an end, which is promising indeed.

Critics said suburban areas and towns benefited far more than city centres, which have seen a huge drop in custom due to fewer people commuting, and far fewer tourists.

Some restaurants, worried people will stay home once Eat Out to Help Out finishes, have sought to carry on discounts in some form next month. Owners told Harden’s they would rather have “bums on seats” than empty restaurants, even if they’re not making much money – for the time being.

That said, others think diners will become too accustom to reduced prices and the industry will be “devalued” by constant reductions.

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