With the scheme offering 50% off meals up to the value of £10 per person, it was of little surprise to learn that the first two weeks of the 'Eat Out To Help Out' scheme had already been used 35 million times, as a post-lockdown public sought familiarity in bars and restaurants throughout the UK.
Available from Monday to Wednesday each week, these opening figures demonstrate nearly half of the nation taking part, as investment into the hospitality sector enjoys much needed growth in the wake of COVID-19. A nearly 30% rise in like for like bookings compared to the same time last year shows how valuable this lifeline has already become for some, but with this has come added pressure and strain due to great demand in reduced capacity establishments.
Co-founder of thefoodpeople, Charles Banks, shared his thoughts on the early results of the scheme: "Some 35 million meals in two weeks, in 85k participating establishments, in terms of an incentive to restore confidence to get people eating out again yes I think it has worked. But it has shifted spend from Thursday - Sunday into Monday - Wednesday, in many cases peak nights are now earlier in the week."
"If the trajectory of the virus continues as is, I believe that it will nudge some consumers back towards pre-crisis eating habits, but there are so many bigger factors at play here – regional second waves, government policy, jobs, the employment market, the economic recovery but also known factors such as winter weather."
"With 1.8 million jobs in the food and beverage sector, and a high number of these being low paid and furloughed since the coronavirus crisis started, we all hope the scheme will encourage diners to return to their pre-crisis dining habits. The test of whether the discounts have been a success will come in September after the scheme has been withdrawn, we'll see. The challenge for restaurants is that the big issues which threaten their long-term survival like how people live and work (from home) into the future as well as the basics like rent arrears and employee support through furlough, are unlikely to disappear in the remaining two weeks of the scheme."
As we pass the midpoint of August, it will be interesting to see how the trend continues for the scheme, as September will mark its end and potential dose of reality as consumers return to their pandemic lifestyles once again.
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