The number of people dining out during the week has surged this month since the introduction of Eat Out to Help Out, bringing in hundreds of millions of pounds for Britain’s suffering hospitality sector.
The scheme has given the country “a much-needed boost towards normality”, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research.
The think tank estimates that shops, pubs and restaurants in London missed out on £600 million of sales each month as people stayed at home because of the pandemic. However, it expects that figure to drop to £178 million this month, with Eat Out to Help Out “partially responsible” for the improvement.
Citing data from Open Table, the restaurant booking app, the CEBR said that the number of people eating out on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays so far in August was 26.9 per cent higher than on the same days a year ago.
Under the scheme, diners can get 50 per cent off the price of a meal — up to £10 a head — in the first half of each week during August. The chancellor said that diners had claimed 10.5 million meals in the scheme’s first three days.
Even including the other days where the £10 saving is not available, diner numbers in the first week of August were down by only 7.1 per cent year-on-year, compared with a 28.2 per cent decline in the week before Eat Out to Help Out came into force.
The scheme was panned by some who saw it as little more than a gimmick that would do little to bolster the nation’s flagging bars and eateries. However, the CEBR thinks that it could end up being the most effective government policy during the pandemic.
Nina Skero, its chief executive, said: “The goal isn’t just for people to eat in restaurants, but also to get back into the habit of socialising, making non-essential journeys and being surrounded — albeit not too closely — by groups of strangers. It is arguably this push towards normality that will prove the biggest benefit of the scheme.”