Surge in restaurant bookings as food lovers enjoy Eat Out to Help Out

‘Monday to Wednesdays are the new weekend!’ Restaurants see surge in bookings as food lovers dine out in droves on first day of Rishi’s 50% discount scheme but owners fear Saturday and Sunday demand will fall

  • Thousands of diners tuck in on the first day of half-price meals as the Eat Out to Help Out scheme begins
  • More than 72,000 venues sign up to Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s offer of 50% discount up to £10 per person
  • But some restaurant owners fear Monday to Wednesday offer in August could lower demand at weekends
  • Obesity campaigners have warned of the effect on scheme dubbed ‘Rishi’s Dishes’ on the UK’s waistlines

Restaurants across Britain have hailed Monday to Wednesday as the new weekend after thousands of diners tucked in on the first day of half-price meals as the Eat Out to Help Out scheme got underway.

More than 72,000 venues have signed up to Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s offer of a discount for customers of 50 per cent, up to £10 per person, on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays this month.

But some restaurant owners have raised fears that the scheme could lower demand at weekends, as people focus on getting the best deal they can at the start of each week – and then stay at home from Thursday to Sunday.

And obesity campaigners have warned of the effect on the scheme dubbed ‘Rishi’s Dishes’ on the nation’s waistlines as diners descended upon fast food eateries and treat themselves to second helpings.

Meanwhile some staff reported getting called into work at short notice because of the ‘phenomenal’ demand among diners, with one tweeting: ‘Extra hours for me and extra money in the bank, Rishi Sunak, thank you.’

Diners queue outside the Dishoom restaurant in London’s Kings Cross yesterday as the Eat Out to Help Out scheme kicks off

Diners enjoy a meal on Kingly Street in London yesterday on the first day of the Chancellor’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme

Diners make the most of the Eat Out to Help Out discount by enjoying a meal on Kingly Street in London yesterday

Chancellor Rishi Sunak, pictured at a Wagamama branch on July 8, has launched the scheme

Lubeck Sredojevic, who has owned Boulevard restaurant in Croydon, South London, since 1999, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he was ‘not crazy’ about the Government’s scheme despite taking part in it.

He said: ‘I have more bookings than I normally have for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. But my Friday, Saturday and Sunday are worse. It will definitely affect the weekend – we won’t have as many people as we normally have.’

Q&A: When is Eat Out to Help Out on and do I need a voucher?

When is it available?

It runs every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from August 3 to 31.

What is it?

A 50 per cent discount when you eat in up to a maximum saving of £10 per diner. The business reclaims the value of the saving from government.

What establishments can take part?

Restaurants, cafés, bars or pubs; work and school canteens; food halls.

What are the restrictions?

No discount on alcoholic drinks or service charges.

Do I need a voucher?

No. The discount will be automatically applied by the participating outlet. The saving can be used alongside other offers and discounts.

How do I find participating outlets?

Treasury has set up a postcode finder that will list outlets offering a scheme within a two mile radius – here

What about chain restaurants?

Ninety businesses have registered to take part in the scheme, including McDonald’s, Burger King, and KFC; burger chains such as GBK, Five Guys, Honest Burgers; coffee shops such as Costa, Starbucks, Pret a Manger, Caffe Nero; pub chains such as Wetherspoon, Fullers, Greene King, Mitchells & Butlers; restaurant chains such as Wagamama, Pizza Hut, Pizza Express, TGI Fridays, Côte Brasserie, Franco Manca.

 

A spokesman for Rick Stein’s restaurants told the Daily Telegraph 60 per cent of this week’s bookings at the Winchester high street branch were for the first three days of the week, compared with only a third last week.

She added: ‘Monday to Wednesday looks like it will be the new weekend during August.’ 

And a spokesman for the Fuller, Smith and Turner group said: ‘We have seen a definite upturn in bookings for the early part of the week.’

Mr Sunak announced the scheme as part of his Covid-19 mini-Budget to support the beleaguered hospitality industry. More than 90 chains – including McDonald’s, Nando’s, Pizza Express and Costa – are participating.

Leading restaurateurs have said they have seen a surge in bookings for the 13 days on which the offer applies.

Mark Selby, the chief executive and co-founder of Mexican chain Wahaca, hailed the ‘shot of adrenaline’ for the restaurant industry.

‘It’s certainly not returning to pre-Covid levels but it’s definitely looking up from the last couple of weeks we’ve seen,’ he told Sky News.

Will Beckett, co-founder of the Hawksmoor group of steakhouses, said his London restaurants were fully booked on the days of the offer and has had to open another.

He told the London Evening Standard: ‘We have had 15,000 bookings for the 13 days. 

‘We weren’t planning to open Air Street [near Piccadilly Circus] on Mondays and Tuesdays, but we changed our minds and now we have 300 covers a night booked in.’

Some people returned to the same venue twice in one day. 

Eduardo Feliz, 42, from the Dominican Republic, visited McDonald’s at London Waterloo station and enjoyed a Big Mac Meal, 20 nuggets and a Smarties McFlurry for less than £5.

He said: ‘I bought more food because it’s half price. All of this was just £4.49. I’m very happy.’

Meanwhile Faisal Awqata, 45, from central London, tucked into a heavily-discounted meal at Nando’s in Southwark with four colleagues.

He said: ‘There is only one thing better than Nando’s and that’s free Nando’s. I am the biggest advocate of this scheme, I have ordered so much food.

‘The group has ordered more than £60 between the five of us and we have approximately £35 off our deal.

‘This is the first time for most of us working in the office to have lunch together since we have been working from home.’ 

Company director Danny Walsh, 41, from Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, visited a Wetherspoon pub in Farringdon, central London, twice in one day.

How you could get a further £5 off your meal out with an Amex card

American Express is giving customers £5 cashback for spending £10 or more in small shops, which can can be used in conjunction with the Government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme.

It means you could buy a meal costing £20, get £10 off at the restaurant through the Government discount, then a further £5 cashback via Amex – meaning you pay just £5 for the meal.

A couple using two different Amex cards could split the bill, so they could both get £5 cashback as long as they each spend at least £10 on their card. 

Under the scheme, you can qualify for the £5 cashback up to ten times – meaning up to £50 is available to each customer. You can use the offer only once at each retailer. The cashback is being funded by Amex, not the store.

Amex has signed up thousands of small businesses across the UK for the deal, including family-run butchers, clothes shops and hair salons in addition to pubs and restaurants. It says it wants to help small firms struggling to survive the pandemic. 

He said: ‘We came here this morning and we had breakfast and I thought, ‘Bloody hell, that’s cheap.’ I paid £3.30 for a large English breakfast. It’s unbelievable. How they are making money out of that, I don’t know.’

And waiter Richard Dewey tweeted: ‘Got called into my second job this evening at short notice because the demand for Eat Out to Help Out was phenomenal. 

‘Extra hours for me and extra money in the bank, Rishi Sunak, thank you. Every person I spoke to was eating out because of you!’

But campaigners have warned the scheme may encourage diners to order high calorie meals amid growing evidence overweight people would be among those most at risk if coronavirus resurges.

National Obesity Forum chairman Tam Fry said: ‘It beggars belief that Downing Street announced on the same day last month that people could pig out on half price burgers, fried chicken and pizzas whilst telling them that junk food TV advertisements and supermarket promotions are to be banned.

‘However that’s history now and hopefully people will take the opportunity throughout August to try out eating some healthier food with the extra cash that Eat Out to Help Out is giving them.

‘It is projected that £500million of taxpayers’ money has been earmarked to fund this meal deal bonanza and the rules should have ensured it was tied to buying something more nutritious.’

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage added on Twitter: ‘Eat Out to Help Out has started, you can now stuff yourself with high-calorie junk food and get money back. Fits in well with the government’s new slimming policy. Brilliant..’

Liberal Democrat MP Munira Wilson, the party’s health spokeswoman, told the BBC: ‘With a number of fast-food chains signing up to the scheme, it seems clear that public health did not factor into the government’s decision.

‘The government must put public health first and exclude from the scheme meals and drinks proven to contribute to obesity. We cannot afford to risk lives as we reopen the economy.’

How can a restaurant join the scheme? 

Those who have already registered are good to go from today, but those who haven’t can still sign up until the end of the month.

The main requirement is that this is an ‘eat in’ scheme, so you must sell food to be eaten on site and you must have, or share, a dining area for customers.

It means popular takeaway chains such as Domino’s are not taking part, and you won’t get the discount at drive-thru branches of chains such as McDonald’s.

The size of the eat-in area is not given, so some places with only a couple of tables could offer the discount, but this would only be available to the customers sat at those tables.

You couldn’t get the discount if they were full and you needed to take your food away. Restaurant bosses need to keep the records for each day they have used the scheme, including the total number of diners and total amount of discount given.

They then make a claim seven days after the date of registration — August 7 at the earliest. HMRC then gives out a claim reference number and (all going to plan) the claim amount goes into the registered bank account in five days. Businesses will still need to pay VAT based on the full amount of the customer’s bill before the scheme discount is applied.

But Business and Industry Minister Nadhim Zahawi insisted the scheme did not clash with the government’s anti-obesity drive.

He told Sky News: ‘I think the two things aren’t contradictory at all. Restaurants are still being asked to think about the food they serve, how healthy it is.’

In Scotland, at least 3,766 restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs have signed up. Restaurant owners have hailed the Chancellor’s lifeline scheme as ‘a gift’, while some diners have said it was the savings that tempted them to eat out after lockdown.

Kyle Christie, manager of Paesano in central Glasgow, yesterday afternoon said the pizza restaurant was operating at around 70 to 75 per cent capacity to accommodate social distancing.

But he is optimistic of the impact it will have this month and said numbers seemed up. The 31-year-old said: ‘A Monday this time of the day, that’s certainly a larger queue than we’d normally have – it’s good to see.

‘There are a lot of younger people out today which is nice, kids and families coming out.’

Mr Christie said it had been hard ‘enticing people back’ amid the pandemic but hopes the initiative would change things.

He said: ‘We 100 per cent expect Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays to be busier than normal. Fingers crossed, but today’s a very good sign – the restaurant’s absolutely full right now.’

Diner Shirley Crawford, 56, was taking advantage of the scheme as she had lunchtime pizza with her son James. Mr Crawford, 20, said: ‘I think it’s a very good idea, it would make me want to go out.’

Bar and restaurant Sloans in Glasgow’s city centre has also registered with the scheme. Shift manager Rachel Hurley, 22, said Sloans had a lot of walk-in customers on the first day.

She added: ‘It’s a good deal, I’d go out knowing you’re getting money off your bill. Bookings this week are more than last week, which is great.’

Which chains and restaurant groups are registered for the Eat Out To Help Out scheme?

Atalian Servest

Atlas Hotels

Bakers + Baristas

Bannatyne Health Club

Bar + Grills

Bill’s

Black Sheep Coffee

Blue Diamond

Boparan Restaurant Group

Brains

Brewdog

Burger King

Buzz Bingo

CH&CO

Caffè Nero

Center Parcs

Coffee#1

Company of Cooks

The Cornish Bakery

Costa Coffee

Crussh

Côte Brasserie

D&D London

David Lloyd Clubs

Deep Blue Fish & Chips

Dobbies Garden Centres

Euro Garages

Everyman

Five Guys

Franco Manca 

Fullers

G1

GAIL’s Bakeries

Giggling Squid

Gourmet Burger Kitchen

Greene King

Grosvenor Casinos

Hall & Woodhouse

Haven

Hollywood Bowl

Honest Burgers

Hydes

JD Wetherspoon

JW Lees

Joe & The Juice

Joseph Holt 

Jurys Inn

KFC

Kew Green Hotels

Leon Restaurants

MacDonald Hotels

Marston’s

McDonald’s 

McMullen

Mecca

Mitchells & Butlers

Morrisons – Cafe and Barista Bar

New World Trading Company

Park Holidays

Patisserie Valerie 

Pho 

Pizza Express 

Pizza Hut

Pret A Manger 

Prezzo

Punch

Revolution Bars Group

Raj Douth

Raj Gate

Roadchef

Selfridges & Co

Shepherd Neame Ltd

Spice Garden

St Austell Brewery

Starbucks

TGI Fridays

Team Sport

Tenpin

The Ivy Collection

The National Trust

Tony Macaroni

Tortilla

Turtle Bay

Vacherin

Village Hotels

Viva Italia

Wagamama

Wasabi

Wildwood

YO Sushi

Youngs

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