Written by Eden James
Illustration by Ellen Stanton
On paper, the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme seems like an amazing idea; how could you turn down the opportunity to get half price food at your favourite restaurants? However, the scheme isn’t as perfect as it might initially seem, many people have pointed out how the scheme is in some ways problematic.
The scheme seems like a great help for both the consumer and the business owners. It can be enjoyed every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday throughout August with the individual being able to use it as many times as they like. There is no need for a voucher to claim the 50% discount on food or non-alcoholic drinks, up to a maximum of £10 per diner, as the discount is automatically applied at participating restaurants.
The point of the scheme, implemented by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, is to encourage people to begin going out for dinner again and help businesses recover after being closed throughout the Coronavirus lockdown. Establishments that have signed up to the scheme are able to claim their money back from the government meaning it helps out both diners and restaurant owners.
Even with the mixed opinions, there have been positive outcomes of the scheme. The big one being that businesses have been able to advertise such an incentive to get in more customers. With some restaurants becoming fully booked on the days where half the bill will be covered by the scheme, it is clear that people are taking full advantage. HMRC released their official statistics that state that the scheme has been used on 64 million covers in the first three weeks, further demonstrating the popularity of the scheme. Because of the cut prices, it encourages people to buy more. For some it may not be cheaper than a meal would usually be, but they get more for their money. Perhaps you treat yourself to a more expensive dish or you get a dessert you wouldn’t normally get. In this situation you aren’t saving money in comparison, but you may be able to indulge where you wouldn’t normally would not. From a business point of view, up to the limit, the more spent the more they make.
There have been questions raised about the scheme in relation to the government’s new obesity strategy. This campaign alongside the Eat Out to Help Out scheme seems counterproductive as a large part is that the government is planning to display calorie counts on menus in restaurants. The aim of the campaign is to give people a ‘wake-up call’ after COVID-19 and encourage people to lose weight, get active and eat better. Such a campaign is questionable alongside the Eat Out to Help Out scheme which is encouraging people to go out and indulge in restaurant food while contributing to the economy. This mixed message does mean the scheme, alongside other campaigns results in a lack of cohesion and can cause people to become confused about the government’s message.
The exclusivity and terms of the scheme have also led to questions of just how good the scheme is for businesses and the consumer. The fact the scheme is only available Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday means there are worries the weekends will be neglected in favour of days when the scheme is available. It does mean those who are looking to go when its quiet and don’t mind paying full price can avoid the days the scheme is running. I recently went to a restaurant on a Sunday and noticed how quiet it was. We were almost the only people in the restaurant which was an extreme comparison to how busy it was when I went on days, I could get half price food. It has however, made me want to go out more, there’s an incentive to make the most of the scheme and its a good way to meet with friends. The scheme also still requires you to spend money and while its cheaper you need to have the disposable income to splurge on a meal out and so those less fortunate will not be able to make the most of the scheme. Especially, the financial difficulties people have faced through lockdown, many people have lost jobs or been furloughed and so going out for dinner even with the half price food and soft drinks may not be possible. It may however be helpful for these people. If you have less disposable income than before not having to spend as much money can mean you may still be able to treat yourself to a meal out.
Whether or not it has been overall a positive or negative scheme, it has been immensely popular and welcomed by those who have taken advantage of it.