The final figures released by HM Treasury for the Eat Out to Help Out initiative show that over 100 million covers were claimed at a cost to government of £522 million.
With 84,700 restaurants taking part, on average each restaurant sold 1,180 covers in August under the initiative. Eat Out to Help Out was open on 13 days in August, which equates to each participating restaurant serving 91 covers per day that qualified for the scheme.
By any standards these are remarkable numbers, that not only benefit the restauranteurs, almost equally as valuable is their stimulus to consumer confidence.
The government’s consumer confidence index in August dipped by one percentage point, but consumer confidence in footfall venturing out to eat in restaurants throughout August was clearly up significantly.
The increase in people going out to eat was a huge boost, and Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s initiative has made a positive difference. Restaurants all over the UK will be trading today that without the Eat Out to Help Out initiative may not have been. That also means that many people are still working that also may not have been.
Now that the initiative subsidy has ended restaurants will need to try and entice consumers back, which presents challenges and at least one stark choice, extending the subsidy as a discount independently or not.
The consumers who took advantage of the Eat Out to Help Out initiative in August received a discount, but the discount value was paid for by HM Treasury, so it was a subsidy. Moving forward any discounts will need to be paid for by the restaurant offering them. This of course is not only difficult, as many balance sheets have taken a hammering in 2020, but also sets expectations.
If diners come to your restaurant motivated by the discount you are providing, at what point do you stop offering them. A challenge that Pizza Express never overcame and set trading with constant offers and discounts as the norm.
Many well known restaurants have already started to extend discounts in September, many will not. The challenge in the months ahead when many people are saving for Christmas will be in maintaining and building footfall, with or without discounts. With trading volumes not showing any signs of significant growth, can Eat Out to Help Out be extended independently will be the question on many restaurateurs minds.