Brits have rushed to take advantage of the government’s new Eat Out to Help Out scheme, with 10.5 million meals using the discount programme in the first week alone.
HMRC tweeted on Tuesday that 10.5 million “covers” had been claimed for in the first week of the schemes operation. Brits saved a total of £53.7m ($70.4m) as a result of the scheme.
“That’s more chefs cooking, more waiters and waitresses serving and over 80,000 hospitality businesses supported across the country,” chancellor Rishi Sunak said on Twitter.
Eat Out to Help Out offers diners discounts of up to 50% on bills when dining out for a sit-down meal, to a maximum of £10 per head. The programme only runs Monday to Wednesday throughout August and excludes alcohol.
Some 83,000 restaurants, cafes, and other food establishments have signed up to the scheme, ranging from chains like KFC and McDonalds to Michelin star restaurants.
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22,000 premises claimed during the first week of the scheme, although just 14,000 businesses made claims, suggesting outlets with two or more locations were benefiting from the programme.
The Treasury budgeted £500m to cover the programme when it was first announced in early July. The chancellor said at the time around 130,000 businesses were eligible for the scheme, which he hoped would protect 1.8 million jobs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the hospitality and leisure sector particularly hard, with lockdown forcing the complete closure of many businesses for months. Separate figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Tuesday show 136,000 jobs were lost in the accommodation and food services industries between April and June, more than any other sector of the economy.
Consumer spending app Yolt said on Monday its data showed a 14% week-on-week rise in eating out during the first week of Eat Out to Help Out.
Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said on Twitter that the scheme had probably convinced some people to shift their bookings earlier in the week to take advantage of the discount.
“Nonetheless, the latest OpenTable data seem to be consistent with a net rise in the weekly number of people eating out,” he wrote.