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#EatOutToHelpOut – Will it Entice Customers Back to Restaurants?

#EatOutToHelpOut – Will it Entice Customers Back to Restaurants?

#EATOUTTOHELPOUT? Will It Entice Customers Back To Restaurants

#EatOutToHelpOut – Will it Entice Customers Back to Restaurants?

“This measure has never been tried in the UK before. This moment is unique. We need to get creative” – Is what Chancellor Rishi Sunak said before announcing the Government’s EatOutToHelpOut scheme.

He wasn’t kidding. For the first time in history, a Conservative Chancellor was offering to treat the nation to a free lunch. Well perhaps not free, but to at least split the bill 50/50.

Credit where credit’s due to Rishi Sunak though, throughout the entire COVID-19 pandemic the Chancellor has managed to answer the call of UK businesses when they’ve requested support. But is it enough?

His EatOutToHelpOut scheme is the latest strategy to support the UK hospitality industry, and help it recover from the crippling effects of the virus. The industry came to a complete standstill when lockdown began. While financial aid from the Government has helped keep many businesses afloat, what the industry really needs is customers – and it needs them now.

How Does EatOutToHelpOut Work?

The idea is restaurants can opt into a scheme which allows them to only charge customers 50% of their meal per person. It will be capped at £10 and is only for the month of August. For example, if a customer orders a £20 meal in a restaurant they will only need to pay £10. The treasury will pay the remaining balance if the restaurant has opted into the scheme

How Successful Will It Be?

The scheme sounds great on paper, and no doubt it will encourage many people to get back out there and visit their favorite restaurants. But here’s the problem – COVID-19 still exists.

The pandemic isn’t over, people are still dying in worryingly high numbers. This is what’s keeping many people away. A discount on a meal isn’t going to be enough to make them lower their guard, go out and risk exposure to the virus. Their motivation isn’t based on financial concerns, but safety.

Regional spikes are already occurring. And some pubs/restaurants that triumphantly opened on the 4th July sadly had to close again once fresh COVID-19 cases were reported on the premises. Not everyone respects social distancing measures and hygiene standards as much as they should, so is attracting more people truly sensible yet? There’s also the question of borrowing, how else will such a scheme be funded?

Those who went to the pub or a restaurant for the first time on Super Saturday, the 4th July, were also not motivated by money. The freedom to do so itself was motivation enough. 50% off a meal will absolutely be welcome, but they were probably already planning on going out before the Chancellor’s announcement. People are craving some normality and a trip down the pub finally provides that.

For some though, the current state of pubs and restaurants doesn’t represent normality. As nice as it may be to finally drink a freshly pulled pint or tuck into our favorite cuisine after 3 months, the restrictions and precautions involved in going to the pub or a restaurant could actually put people off. They may be waiting for the old normal to return instead of embracing ‘the New Normal’. The question is how long are they prepared to wait? And can the industry afford it if they do?

People have missed restaurants and pubs. We all want to get back out there and support them, but everyone has different priorities. While the EatOutToHelpOut scheme is certainly welcome; and will help the hospitality industry, we fear the Government may have misunderstood the public’s motivation.

Picking up half our bill is generous and thoroughly appreciated by businesses and customers. But will it help keep us safe? Or does it risk doing the exact opposite?

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