By Cerys Jones | Comment Editor
The Eat Out to Help Out scheme was an economic recovery measure designed by the Government to support businesses reopening following the COVID-19 lockdown period.
Under the scheme, the Government provided a 50% discount for up to £10 per person covering the cost of food and soft drinks consumed in participating businesses across the UK from Monday to Wednesday throughout August.
According to the latest figures provided by HM Treasury, more than 84,000 restaurants registered for the scheme, with more than 64 million meals claimed within the first 3 weeks.
Despite popular demand, the treasury has withstood calls to extend the scheme, but its undoubted success has led to several establishments deciding to continue at their own expense in an attempt to boost business and fuel the economy.
Many intend to extend and continue the initiative during September to upkeep the economic momentum created by the scheme, and to provide work for their workers as the industry attempts to overcome a challenging period.
Alun Rees, store manager of Barrack Lane’s ‘The Grazing Shed’ stated;
“I believe it would be a good idea for the government to continue the scheme, in some capacity, through the autumn months before Christmas as I feel that this will now be the single most testing time for the industry for the past decade”.
Numerous establishments have launched their own discounts following the success of the initiative to maintain public morale and maintain returning custom.
The restaurant chain and franchise, Pizza Hut, has publicly announced that it will continue to offer 50% off of meals for September following the success in August. Also inspired by the scheme, the pub chain, Wetherspoons, launched their very own scheme called ‘Stay out to Help Out’, offering reductions on food and soft beverages until the 11th of November 2020.
However, whilst large business franchises have the financial freedom and ability to provide price reductions to their customers, smaller establishments are unable to do so without Government subsidy, therefore there is growing concern that independent traders will suffer consequently.
An example of this would be The Gatehouse Steakhouse, an independently run business located in the town of Dolgellau.
The truth of the matter is, the restaurant will be unable to financially continue the scheme without Government funding.
A spokesperson for the Gatehouse Steakhouse stated:
“Without the governments funding, it does make it different as we’re only a small independent business, so we couldn’t afford to give them sort of discounts at our own cost, but we do have our own offers to make sure that people are still getting a good deal”.
Coronavirus restrictions and social distancing measures have greatly impacted the hospitality sector. Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade association Hospitality UK stated that it was “catastrophic to businesses and jobs”.
The Eat Out to Help Out scheme is part of Boris Johnson’s £7bn budget package to help businesses survive the crisis provided a sense of relief for the industry during the battle against recession.
According to the BBC, 80% of venues closed during April consequent to the virus. Coincidingly, 1.4 million hospitality workers have been placed on the furlough scheme, designed to financially support those who could not attend work and to prevent mass redundancies. This is the highest percentage in any sector.
The Eat Out to Help Out scheme’s objective was to encourage the socially-distanced return of customers to dining establishments to protect the jobs of 1.8 million employees in the hospitality industry.
Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated:
“Today’s figures continue to show that Brits are backing hospitality – with more than 64 million meals discounted so far, that’s the equivalent to nearly every person in the country dining out to protect jobs”.
Smaller independent business establishments have also recognised the positive impact that the Eat Out to Help Out scheme has had for both their business and the hospitality industry.
The Gatehouse Steakhouse Dolgellau stated on their Facebook platform:
“Eat Out Help Out has been fantastic for the hospitality industry…and especially for us. It has helped us claw back so much lost revenue and there has been a real buzz about Dolgellau”.
Despite the economic success of the scheme, with increased customer numbers by over 50% according to Gov.UK, some businesses cannot wait for the programme to come to an end.
Many express concern that the scheme’s success is only a temporary boost for the UK’s economic recovery, and will not continue in the long term, thus creating unnecessary pressure for the hospitality sector. An independently run business,
The Secret Beach Bar & Kitchen Swansea stated on their Facebook platform:
‘The Eat Out to Help Out scheme has been amazing, but very demanding! The whole team have been working unbelievable hours but it’s what we’ve had to do, to sustain the long-term future of our business after the COVID crisis’.
Many hospitality workers across the UK have voiced their frustration following a surge in demand creating pervasive pressure on members of staff.
Diners have been criticised for over-utilising the scheme, which contrasts completely with the government’s recently announced anti-obesity drive, which may confuse the nation.
A professor of marketing at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee who studies food decision making, Kelly Haws’ research suggests that the Eat Out to Help Out scheme will make people more indulgent, consequent to the financial incentive of cheaper food.
Haws states that another factor is that the scheme gives people a “moral license” to indulge rather than being concerned about the health quality of the food their consuming. “It’s helping the businesses, and it seems to be positioned as being a bit patriotic in nature,” she says. “You’re doing your part.”
The Eat Out to Help Out scheme fuelled economic recovery across the UK following the lockdown period.
Despite fears over unemployment, the governments initiative alongside the furlough scheme created a boom in the economy.
The continuity of this boom remains uncertain consequent to the treasury refusing to extend the scheme, therefore smaller businesses are forced to continue alone without government support.