“When are we going to have this opportunity again?” Says Danielle Hughes of Livingston in West Lothian. She estimates she saved £ 150 by eating out this month – money which has been baffled by the taxpayer.
She is one of millions of people who have participated in the government’s Eat Out to Help Out program, which allows diners to get 50% off their bill, up to a total reduction of £ 10, on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in August. It ends next week, Bank Holiday Monday.
Danielle, 24, ate at the restaurant every day that the diet was on, and sometimes twice a day. She plans to continue until the offer ends on August 31.
“I just tried to make the most of it,” she says. “Everything has been really good. Even in all of the places that were very busy, they all had great customer service. ”
She says as soon as the program was announced, she knew she wanted to use the offer as much as possible.
“Sometimes I went out for breakfast and then for dinner too,” she says. Has she ever been tempted to eat three meals in a day? “It’s probably too much for my stomach,” she laughs.
“I would love to see it extended or for it to happen again,” says the Glasgow University student, who is in training to become a religious education teacher. “I don’t want this to be over but it’s probably good for my bank balance.
“I’m not going out in September at all. In September, I will probably eat at home for the entire month. “
- How does the Eat Out program work?
Daniel Davies-Luke, of Hartlepool, estimates he saved £ 218 on restaurant meals, often with his six-year-old daughter Luna. “She’s a bit greedy,” he says. The two of them also went to eat every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday – and once managed to do so three times in the same day.
Daniel says he had “saved so much money with the lockdown” and with many traditional summer vacation activities closed, dining out was a natural choice.
“We tried to stay away from the chains because these guys have big bank balances anyway,” he said, adding that it was important to support local businesses. “Apart from McDonald’s once, everything has been independent places. ”
“Either way, we’re going to pay it ourselves on our taxes,” he says. “Everyone knows there is a big tax bill around the corner. We will pay it back in the long term. “
The program began earlier this month and in the first three weeks it has been used over 64 million times. The idea was to bring people back to pubs and restaurants to boost the struggling hospitality sector, which suffered greatly during the coronavirus lockdown.
The government has set aside £ 500million to pay for it, and restaurants are asking to get the money back. “The money is in my account in 3 to 5 days,” says chef and restaurateur Linsey Scott, who runs Mason Belles Kitchen in Linlithgow and Dunblane.
Linsey says it’s been “absolutely great for us”. Like many other businesses, she has changed her restaurant opening hours for this and she plans to continue the offer independently until September by funding it herself – but with a maximum reduction of £ 5 per person, instead of £ 10.
‘I want this to end’
Many companies say they would like the government to extend it, as customer numbers could drop in September.
But alongside the calls for an extension, there are some who can’t wait to see the back of it. Some restaurant workers say they have faced hostility and abuse from customers.
“I’ve been in the hospitality business for over seven years and I’ve never experienced anything like this,” says Amy Erkin, 21, a University of Nottingham student who works in a pub in her hometown of Norfolk.
“We gave the staff a lot of hassle to fire people or to just have a 20-minute wait,” she says. “I had to deal with very aggressive customers, I had to ask the customers to leave.
“People have this attitude that I come here to help you, I want it now. ”
She adds, “Obviously I know this is a really good plan and it has helped a lot of places but I hated it. It made me nervous about working.
“I loved my job, I always said I liked working in the hotel industry. And I said to my boss “In fact, if they decide to continue this project until September, I will probably leave and find another job elsewhere”.
“I don’t want to come to work and deal with terrible people. ”
She also says that she and her colleagues noticed “a very large lack of tips” compared to the rest of the week.
“I think it’s over again, people see what they’re doing, they put money in the pub, they think there’s no need to tip because they’re already helping while eating at a restaurant. “
1 in 10people had participated in mid-August
41%will probably or very likely participate
36% unlikely to very unlikely to participate
1 out of 2people who did not attend were afraid of catching the virus
Source: Gov.uk and Office for National Statistics, until August 16
Jordan Griffiths, who is a waitress at Porthcawl, says she has also been abused. “Last week someone called me names on the phone. They wanted to book a party for 20. I tried to explain that there was no way to book in 20, the only thing we could do was have tables outside. He said I had ruined his day. ”
She says when she sees the rotation with her name on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, “literally I just wanna cry”. “I don’t want to work these shifts. ”
Meanwhile, some businesses are warning the offer is affecting weekend bookings as people eat out early in the week.
- Eats out causing ‘hostility to staff’
- The meal offer “will certainly affect the weekend”
The Treasury did not say it would be extended – despite industry calls. A spokesperson said: “Part of this popularity is precisely because this is a time-limited program – it reminds and encourages people to safely return to get out. ”
He said the program “complements a wider package of hospitality support that goes beyond August, including reducing VAT to 5%, paying salaries for staff on leave, cut corporate rates and billions in tax and loan deferrals ”.
“Building trust and increasing footfall has been the most important thing this program has done,” says Kate Nicholls, Head of Hospitality UK who represents the industry.
But she warns that a third of their members are still not open, especially in city centers and town centers where attendance is lower. “This means that a million members of our team are still on leave,” she says.
For many diners and restaurants, it was a ray of light in an otherwise difficult year. “Hopefully at the end of the program, pubs and other places can watch and say it’s been a positive thing,” says Neil Simon, who runs a local Facebook page for Hartlepool residents to discuss the Eat program. Out to Help Out.
Neil, who works as a beer delivery designer, also used the offer every day. “It’s a little strange when it comes to Thursday and I have to start cooking again,” he jokes. “I enjoyed myself a little too much but we can all have a good time. “