Over 35 million discounted meals have been claimed across the UK in the first two weeks of the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme.
More than 85,000 eateries have now signed up for the scheme, including high-street chains as well as thousands of small independent businesses, according to new data released on Tuesday.
Over 48,000 claims have been made by participating restaurants so far.
The first two weeks of the dining scheme has seen the number of people eating in restaurants from Monday to Wednesday increase by an average of 27% year-on-year, according to data from OpenTable.
The 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.
Pubs, restaurants, cafes, and other establishments that serve food can take part in the programme. The scheme is part of chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Plan for Jobs and aims to protect 1.8 million jobs in the hospitality sector.
Hospitality has been one of the hardest hit sectors by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown. Around 80% of hospitality firms stopped trading in April, with 1.4 million people in accommodation and food services furloughed, according to the Treasury, the highest of any sector.
Evidence from 2008 suggests that the hospitality sector could be a key contributor to the jobs recovery post-COVID-19, according to the government. The hospitality sector generated 22% of new jobs for unemployed people in 2010 and 201, despite accounting for just 10% of overall employment, according to the Resolution Foundation.
Sunak said: “Today’s figures show that Britain is eating out to help out – with at least 35 million meals served up in the first two weeks alone, that is equivalent to over half of the UK taking part and supporting local jobs in the hospitality sector.
“To build back better we must protect as many jobs as possible, that is why I am urging all registered businesses to make the most of this by claiming back today — it’s free, simple and pays out within 5 working days.”
Marko Husak, co-founder of independent restaurant Bundobust which has sites in Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester said: “The response to Eat Out to Help Out has been phenomenal. Even though venues are operating at reduced capacity and with smaller teams following more thorough safety measures, we’re still managing to serve a similar number of customers on Mondays — Wednesdays that we were this time last year. That makes a huge difference to independents like us.”