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Eat Out to Help Out discounts applied to 35m meals in first fortnight

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

The government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme has been used to pay for more than 35m meals, according to HMRC figures.

The scheme offers people who dine in at pubs, cafes and restaurants 50% off their food, up to £10 per person. The discount is on offer on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout August.

Businesses automatically apply the discount to diners’ bills – no voucher is required – and claim the money back from the government.

Data from the government shows that more than 85,000 restaurants have now registered for the scheme, including high street chains such as Wahaca, Joe and the Juice, and Pho, as well as thousands of small businesses across the UK.

More than 48,000 claims have been made by some of these 85,000 restaurants so far and the government is reminding outlets to submit their claims to receive the government payback.

Data from OpenTable shows that restaurants have been, on average, 27% fuller than they were during the same period (Monday to Wednesday) in August 2019.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “Today’s figures show that Britain is eating out to help out – with at least 35 million meals served up in the first two weeks alone, that is equivalent to over half of the UK taking part and supporting local jobs in the hospitality sector.

“To build back better we must protect as many jobs as possible, that is why I am urging all registered businesses to make the most of this by claiming back today – it’s free, simple and pays out within five working days.”

Saving the hospitality industry

The Eat Out to Help Out scheme aims to help protect the jobs of the hospitality industry’s 1.8 million employees by encouraging people to safely return to their local restaurants, cafes and pubs where social distancing rules allow.

About 80% of hospitality firms stopped trading in April, with 1.4 million workers furloughed, the highest of any sector.

Stephen Wall, Pho managing director and co-founder, said: “The Eat Out to Help Out scheme has really been amazing. It’s so nice to see our restaurants full of happy staff and customers again. It has certainly benefitted our early week figures and seems to have encouraged the British public to dine out safely, as our restaurants are filling up and staying busy throughout the weekend, too.”

Support for businesses

Separate figures from the Treasury show that more than £52bn has been given in loans to struggling businesses.

Under the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, 1,174,854 businesses had received £35.47bn in loans as of 16 August. More than 1.43 million applications for the scheme have been submitted.

As part of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, £13.68bn has been approved to help more than 60,400 businesses, with more than 122,800 applications having been made under the scheme.

Turning to the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme, the Treasury statistics revealed £3.5bn of loans have been approved for 516 businesses, with 938 applications having been received.

Stephen Pegge, managing director of commercial finance at UK Finance, said: “The Bounce Back Loan scheme (BBLS) continues to be a vital element of the industry’s support package, supporting nearly 1.23 million small and micro businesses across the UK. The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) has also seen continued demand from impacted businesses, with over 60,409 businesses now supported through the scheme.

“The government-backed coronavirus lending schemes operate alongside commercial lending, capital repayment holidays, extended overdrafts and invoice finance facilities. They are just one element of the broader strategy for supporting the nation’s enterprises.

“It is important to remember that any lending provided under government-backed schemes is a debt not a grant, and so firms should carefully consider their ability to repay before applying.”