Industry supports Eat Out scheme but some have concerns

Updated: Jul 29, 2020

Hundreds of fish and chip restaurants across the UK are among the 53,000 outlets already registered for next month’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

Deep Blue, Rockfish, Elite Fish & Chips, The Ashvale, The Cod’s Scallops, The Magpie Cafe, Trenchers, Wetherby Whaler and Papa’s are just some of the big names to have signed restaurants up to the 50% discount on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout August.

Many more independents are also taking part including The Catch in Glasgow, Hadley’s in Whitby, North Yorkshire, Fishers in Hunstanton, Norfolk, and Squires in Braunton, Devon.

Paul Hay, owner of Fish 'n’ Fritz in Weymouth, is one of those chippies that has embraced the scheme. He reopened his seaside restaurant four weeks ago and believes the initiative will help lift confidence with both locals and tourists, giving a boost to the whole town.

Paul comments: “I think it’s a really positive thing, we need to get people back eating out and shopping on the high street. When you walk through the town centre you can see there have been many businesses that have closed down since coronavirus, so this will help keep it all together and get that confidence back. It will also bring people to the coast, we’ve got the sun shining so, hopefully, we’ll see a bit of an upturn throughout the season.”

While many support the government’s scheme to encourage diners back into restaurants and help the hospitality sector bounce back from the Covid-19, some operators have concerns, particular over the timing.

Stuart Devine, operations director at The Ashvale in Aberdeen, reopened the chain’s takeaways on 29th June followed by its four restaurants on 15th July. Describing the restaurant trade as being “slow”, Stuart’s participating in the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, but says he would have liked to see it running for longer.

Stuart comments: “Our big restaurant in Aberdeen is doing about 500 meals per week, that would be normally closer to 2,000, so we've registered with the Eat Out Scheme, which I think is a good idea, to bring more people in. I posted yesterday on Facebook about it and the phone started ringing almost immediately, first a table of 10 booked in and then a table of six, so it’s already working.

“I find it a little bit bizarre though that the government is offering it to 65 million people, unlimited amounts of times but in just a month, well 15 days. I believe they should have spoken to someone about how to do it and stretched it from August to November. November is one of our worst months of the year, everybody will be dying to use up their vouchers so it would have given the whole industry a real boost.

“If everyone wants to use their bonus in 15 days, restaurants are going to be screwed anyway as we’re already down to half capacity.”

John Molnar, owner of The Cod’s Scallops in Nottingham, has also signed his four restaurants up, hoping it will boost trade from the current 30-40% level to the 70% he anticipates at this time of year. He's also teamed up with a local taxi company to offer 20% off fares to and from the restaurants on participating days.

John comments: “As a business, we needed to join it. We’ve got to try and get people confident to come out again. Once they come out, hopefully, they will see it’s fine and they will revisit.

“We’re all ready, we’ve got extra staff on and we’ve got the discount buttons ready on the tills. That was the biggest headache I would say, sorting the tills, because it’s 50% up to a maximum of £10. Anyone having an alcoholic drink you have to take the drink off first, and then some people won’t get the £10 as they are not spending £20 so we have multiple buttons on our tills to give the right level of discount.

“If it goes well we might extend the offer into September or we might do kids eat free and take the hit ourselves. We just need to get customers confident in eating out again.”

Although he welcomes the scheme, John is also critical of the timing, describing it as “impeccably bad”, adding: “I am a bit concerned as the government announced Eat Out To Help Out and then announced a massive obesity scheme four days before it launches. Then the health minister says today ‘go out, but choose a salad or don’t have a pudding’. The whole point of this 50% off is to get people to go out and have a good time!”

Restaurants can still register for the scheme by clicking here.

Participating outlets must wait seven days from registration to make their first claim with all eligible claims being paid within five working days. Claims can be submitted weekly and businesses are encouraged to register before the 3rd August to benefit for the entire month in which the scheme runs. For more details on how to make a claim, click here.