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Eat Out to Help Out boosts appetite for restaurant dining

Published:  06 August, 2020

Early indications from the first week of the UK government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme are that restaurants have boosted bookings across the Monday-Wednesday window in line with the support initiative’s stated aim.

While it is too early for any solid data, several operators contacted by Harpers reported a similar upswing in customers, along with bookings looking ahead until the end of August when the scheme ends.

“The scheme has proved increasingly popular,” said Ben McKeller, chef-proprietor of the Gingerman group of restaurants in Brighton and Sussex, with bookings ahead “looking strong”.

A prominent London restaurateur with several sites and whom wished to remain anonymous while delicate rent negotiations are taking place, said that many operators have reported “100% growth week on week” during the Monday-to-Wednesday period.

Jillian MacLean, CEO and founder of London-based Drake & Morgan group said: “We are seeing a major uplift in bookings and this has been extremely positive for our London bars. Our lovely customers have certainly returned in significant numbers.

"It is clear that the Eat Out to Help out has helped, encouraging our customers to book for a full dining experience rather than visit just for drinks and has provided an additional boost and incentive to visit earlier in the week on days that are traditionally more quiet for hospitality.”

Asked for comment by Harpers, Kate Nicholls of UK Hospitality reported that the trade body has also had much positive feedback from its members.

“The Chancellor recognised that our sector has been hit the hardest of all and the Eat Out to Help Out scheme provides a much-needed boost for many vulnerable hospitality businesses,” she said.

“The sector has been quick to adopt the scheme and customers have been quick to take advantage of the many great deals available – with many newly social-distanced venues now booked up.”

Fears that stronger Monday to Wednesday bookings – when customers can enjoy up to £10 off the cost of their food and soft drinks – would eat into booking for the rest of the week appear unfounded in many cases.

“We don't anticipate any cannibalisation and bookings look strong for the weekend,” said the aforementioned London operator.

Rob Maynard, co-owner of Hove’s Wild Flor, added that the scheme had been “a raucous success”, with the business having re-opened for lunchtime service Monday to Wednesday for the first time since pre-lockdown on the back of the scheme.

“We’ve seen 30 covers a day as we’re lunch only, which is about double our forecast. It doesn’t seem to be cannibalising our bookings at all, we’re seeing a lot of first time customers,” he said.

“The next two weeks are filling up fast, so we’re gearing up for a hot August.”

Nicholls added: “We hope that people continue to enjoy a fantastic dining out experience at a significant discount throughout the rest of August.”