What is Eat Out to Help Out, and will it actually help out?

During August, more than 72,000 food outlets across the UK are taking part in a new initiative called ‘Eat Out to Help Out’. The idea for the programme was first announced on July 8th, with the UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak describing it as a “creative” solution to “get customers back into restaurants, cafes and pubs”.

Eat Out to Help Out offers a 50% discount on sit down meals at participating venues, up to £10 off per person. The offer will be available on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout August, and is designed to encourage people to start going out again in the hopes of boosting the hospitality sector. The sector was particularly badly affected by the lockdown, with sales dropping 87% in the second quarter of 2020, a loss of nearly £30bn according to the UKHospitality Quarterly Tracker.

 

How does it work?

For consumers, the discount is designed to be simple, with no vouchers required, although customers will need to make sure they’re attending a restaurant which has registered for the initiative. The Government has introduced a useful search function allowing consumers to find their nearest eligible eateries, at https://www.tax.service.gov.uk/eat-out-to-help-out/find-a-restaurant/.

 

How can businesses register?

Registration for the Eat Out to Help Out programme is available for businesses which sell “food for immediate consumption on the premises”, which provide their “own dining area” or share “a dining area with another establishment for eat-in meals”, and which were registered as a food business before July 7, 2020. The programme allows restaurants to issue discounts at the point of sale, and to then claim the discount back from the Government. On July 8, Rishi Sunak confirmed that these claims would be processed quickly, with restaurants receiving funds from HMRC in their bank accounts within 5 working days. Participating restaurants must wait 7 days from initial registration before submitting their first claim.

Full details on the registration process can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/register-your-establishment-for-the-eat-out-to-help-out-scheme. Will it Help Out the Hospitality Sector? On the first day of the initiative, August 3rd, restaurants reported seeing an increase in lunchtime bookings. Nevertheless, a big hurdle for the discount’s success will be public perceptions of health and safety. When restaurants first re-opened in July, polling firm Ipsos MORI found that 60% of British adults felt “Not very” or “Not at all” comfortable about “going to bars and restaurants”. The industry has reported a tentative return to some normality during July, with increased sales and customer numbers, but with further reports of Covid-19 cases increasing, particularly in Continental Europe, the Eat Out to Help Out discount is relying not just on the attraction of a cut price meal, but also on the confidence of consumers to continue going out.

However, the Government has reported that there have been over 3.3 million hits on their Eat Out to Help Out restaurant finder web page since its introduction, a positive indication that there is substantial interest. What the initiative does do is shine a spotlight on the idea of eating out. With many still struggling with the uncertain financial conditions, Eat Out to Help Out’s 50% discount could be the financial boost that encourages people to go out again. What it also does is give the

hospitality sector the confidence to retain employees and to continue operating. For that reason alone, it’s a big help to hospitality.