Britons Urged to Keep Dining Out as Public-Funded Half-Price Meals Scheme Ends

August 31, 2020 Updated: September 1, 2020

As a popular taxpayer-funded scheme giving UK restaurant customers half-price meals comes to an end on Monday, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak urges Britons to keep dining out.

Launched on Aug. 3, “Eat Out to Help Out” is a government scheme to help struggling restaurants get back on their feet after the hospitality industry took a huge hit due to lockdown measures to curb the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.

Throughout August, UK restaurant-goers enjoyed up to 10 pounds ($13) off per person on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays at participating venues.

UK eat out to help out 0
A server carries food past a sign promoting the British government’s “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme to get consumers spending again, outside a restaurant in Manchester, northwest England, on Aug. 3, 2020. (Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images)

By Aug. 23, 64 million meals had been eaten under the scheme, claiming 336 million pounds ($450 million) in discounts from HM Treasury.

The chancellor thanked people in Britain for the success of the scheme.

“I want to say thank you to the diners who have fallen back in love with their local, to the managers who have spent weeks ensuring their restaurants were safe and to the chefs, waiters, and waitresses across the country who have worked tirelessly, sometimes with more customers than they’ve ever had before—all helping to protect 1.8 million jobs in the hospitality sector,” Sunak said in a statement. 

He urged people to keep their patronage going in the future.

“The scheme reminded us why we as a nation love dining out and I urge diners to maintain the momentum to help continue our economic recovery,” Sunak said.

Selina, the manager at a West London branch of a popular Vietnamese food chain, Pho, told The Epoch Times that the number of their customers doubled or even tripled on the “Eat Out to Help Out” days.

Pho London restaurant
Customers queuing outside a restaurant on the last day of the “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme, which pays for half of their restaurant bills, in London, on Aug. 31, 2020. (Sharon Hsu/The Epoch Times)

“Initially when the scheme was launched, we didn’t know what to expect really. So our first week of doing it, it was busier, and we were like, okay, this is actually helping,” Selina said.

“As the weeks progressed, it kept getting busier and busier. The last two weeks we’ve actually had our record sales for the week. So it definitely helped out massively.”

Between the stimulus scheme winding down, children going back to school, and people having less money due to the economic impact of the CCP virus pandemic, Selina said she doesn’t know if the momentum will sustain.

“It’s all a bit of a guessing game really at the moment. … I do expect it to be quieter, but I don’t know by how much.”

Honour Cann, an assistant manager at a city centre restaurant in Nottingham, said it was “like Christmas” on Mondays through Wednesdays, with the number of customers on an average day tripling what it was in July and people ordering more than what they would normally eat.

She, too, expects it to be quieter in September.

“I think we will get quieter definitely. … people who wouldn’t normally eat out are eating out to take advantage of the offer. I don’t think they will continue to eat out,” Cann told The Epoch Times.

Unlike Pho, Cann’s restaurant also does breakfast, which serves the needs of local students. Cann thinks this may compensate for some of the drop.

“I think … with the students coming back, that will help the business,” she said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed a national lockdown in March, and the Treasury said on Monday around 80 percent of hospitality firms stopped trading in April, with 1.4 million workers furloughed, the highest of any sector.

Sharon Hsu and Reuters contributed to this report.