JD Wetherspoons (JDW.L) has announced that all its pubs will offer half price meals through the government’s programme to subsidise meals in Britain’s restaurants.
The new “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme gives diners a 50% discount at participating restaurants and pubs on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout August, to a maximum of £10 per head to encourage people to eat out to help the hospitality industry boost the economic recovery from the virus crisis.
Wetherspoons said a selection of meals, with a non-alcoholic drink, will be available at any of its 900 pubs across the UK at a lower price than buying from most supermarkets.
Under the scheme, breakfasts in Wetherspoons pubs will cost £2.24, a pizza will be £2.75, other meals will be £2.37 and a children’s meal will be £2.08, according to the pub chain.
Company chairman Tim Martin said: “Thanks to the government scheme, an individual is £2.93 better off eating and drinking at Wetherspoons than purchasing a similar range of products at Tesco (TSCO.L).
“Over a 13-day period customers would save £38.09. The vast majority of our pubs will be offering a range of meals, with a drink, at unbeatable prices.”
The “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme will cost the government an estimated £500m ($648m).
Pubs, restaurants, cafes, and other establishments that serve food can take part in the programme. The government estimates 130,000 businesses will be eligible to take part in the scheme, which it hopes will protect 1.8 million jobs.
Hospitality has been one of the hardest hit sectors by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown. About 1.4 million people in accommodation and food services have been furloughed since March, according to the Treasury, second only to retail as the worst hit sector.
Wetherspoons was criticised for its early handling of the coronavirus crisis.
Martin initially urged the public to continue visiting JD Wetherspoons in March, despite guidance from the government to avoid pubs.
When lockdown was ordered, Martin then told staff they would face delays being paid and urged them to seek work at supermarkets like Tesco instead. Wetherspoon eventually backtracked and agreed to pay staff. However, it faced similar scrutiny of its decision to ask suppliers to wait for payment on stock already delivered.
Rachel Reeves MP, then chair of the business select committee, said in March she had “deep concerns” about Martin’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis.
As it announced plans to reopen pubs after lockdown, Wetherspoons said it had raised £48.3m through the government-backed Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan scheme (CLBILS). The pub group raised £141m selling new shares to investors in April.
The pub group said annual results would be delayed until October as a result of the crisis.