The Eat out to Help Out scheme was brought in to encourage the public to support the restaurant industry, which has been hard hit by the Coronavirus lockdown. Has it done that? Yes it has with diners booking in their droves and restaurant tables fully booked Monday- Wednesday. But is it all good news? Does the scheme really work?
What is the Eat Out to Help Out scheme?
From the 3rd -31st August you can eat out at registered restaurants and get 50% off your bill up to a value of £10 per person. Alcohol and takeaways are not included but you can use the offer as often as you like and the discount is applied automatically. In the first week alone, diners had reportedly used the Eat Out to Help Out scheme more than 10.5 million times.
What are the benefits of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme?
More people are eating out: Data from money app Yolt suggests that the scheme has resulted in a 14% increase in people eating out.
High Streets are busier: There has been a reported rise of almost 19% after 6pm between Monday and Wednesday with data from Springboard also showing an increase of 10% during lunchtime trade.
Shops are busier: An increase in footfall in shops with the Springboard report indicating that shopper numbers were 3.8% higher during the first week of the scheme compared to the previous week.
With more footfall on the high street and more people eating out, consumer confidence seems to be growing but will this stop when the scheme stops?
What are the downsides of the Eat Out to Help Out system?
Increased workload for eateries, as they are responsible for making the correct deductions and submitting claims accordingly.
It’s open to abuse with some establishments over- claiming and fudging the figures.
Official government guidance says that the discount can be used alongside other offers but some establishments are not honouring this.
‘Eat ins’ are becoming takeaways with some diners purchasing meals and then taking them home to eat.
Some restaurants have increased prices and/or reduced portion sizes.
Monday has just become the new Friday with Monday- Wednesday super busy and the weekend less so.
Fellow Consumer Champion and Expert Scott Dixon had this to say about the scheme in response to companies not playing fair:
“Firms in all spheres including restaurants need to play the long game and not see customers as a one-off opportunity to rip them off. Customers who feel short-changed will not return and they are becoming increasingly savvy about their consumer rights and how to air their grievances on social media. TripAdvisor is the most popular platform for food reviews and most people have cameras on their phones to take photos to evidence a bad experience. Firms that treat their customers unfairly will eventually find that they have none at all”.
Scott also wrote this post about the importance of customer loyalty.
How have diners found the experience?
I asked some of the Lady Janey Facebook page members and this is what they said:
“ Yes, we have had a lovely family meal for 5 in a local pub for only £25! An absolute bargain, and the first time we had been out together since lockdown.” Tracey Keir – Domagalski, Market Drayton Shropshire
“We had a smashing meal at The Fairview Gardener & The Tea Room- it was socially distanced and well organised. We are happy to support small local businesses.” Carla Kaye, Gloucester
“I can see good in this idea and taking advantage ourselves supporting local businesses. Am making financial donation to local food bank using amount we have saved.” Lesley Rains Sutton, Rochdale
“We had a lovely meal at the Barley Sheaf Inn in Gorran, Cornwall. 3 course meal for 5 of us would normally cost us £100 and we paid £50. What’s not to like?” Samantha Bradley, Croydon
Conclusion: Does the scheme work?
Only time will tell as to whether this was a flash in a restaurant pan or whether it will have made an ongoing significant increase in the numbers eating out and increased public confidence. Certainly in the short term it seems to have served its purpose with an increase in the numbers of people eating out so please do take part and support the industry if you can while you can.
As to whether it’s sustainable in the long term then that’s anyone’s guess. The only certainty at the moment is uncertainty with the shadow of future lockdowns and spikes still looming. Even with financial support from the government, can/will the industry survive another hit?