Oxfordshire pubs, cafes and restaurants taking part in the Eat Out to Help Out scheme are already seeing a surge in bookings with many fully booked, following the launch of the government scheme this week.
Customers across the county have been taking advantage of half-price meals as part of a government plan to boost restaurants and pubs post-lockdown, and to keep up with the increased demand, some businesses are taking on extra staff.
The Eat out to Help out scheme applies to eat-in food and drink on Monday to Wednesdays at more than 72,000 venues nationwide. The discount is capped at £10 per person and does not apply to alcohol. It is the chancellor’s latest move to help boost an industry that has been badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Mr Sunak hopes that by offering up to £10 off a meal in August on certain days, it will encourage people to visit restaurants and cafes.
“a big thank you to Rishi Sunak from the expanded team at The Black Horse. Your scheme is working, and our customers are loving it”
Even though the offer is only available on 13 days during the month, businesses are already reporting a boost in bookings.
Martin Sherriff, chef at the Blackhorse, Standlake told us: “We are back with a blast! The government’s Eat out to Help Out scheme has rocketed us back into business. The scheme has furthered our customer base and expanded our business into being a fully booked pub Monday through to Sunday.”
“We knew it would be busy but we had no idea it would be this busy.”
Six weeks ago the hospitality industry was told they could once again reopen their doors following strict safety measures with the added boost of the government Eat Out to Help Out scheme for the month of August.
So how is it going so far? Martin added: “It has been fantastic. The scheme has meant we are fully booked Monday through to Sunday. We’ve increased our staffing and the team is working overtime to ensure we’re able to deliver our high quality product to our guests.
“The government initiative has allowed our customers to experience our terrific dishes for a fraction of the price. As an example, guests can enjoy a whole fresh Cornish lobster with a prawn marie rose, fries and apple salad for just £12. So a big thank you to Rishi Sunak from the expanded team at The Black Horse. Your scheme is working, and our customers are loving it!”
“for us it has been a really helpful ramp in revenue” The plough at 38
The scheme is designed to encourage people to visit restaurants, cafes and pubs, which have been badly hit by the lockdown. Around 80% of hospitality firms stopped trading in April, with 1.4 million workers furloughed – the highest of any sector – according to government data.
Many venues which have reopened since 4 July have also been forced to operate at a lower capacity to comply with social distancing rules.
Many venues have invested in outdoor seating and bars to comply with the new regulations. Read about the top pub transformations here
Christopher Mulhall from The Plough At 38 in Oxford, added: “At first I thought this was just a gesture by the Chancellor to keep people sweet and to be honest a bit of a gimmick. However, as it turns out the Chancellor seemed to understand the mood of the nation and we have been busy as a result of this.
“It now seems like an attractive offer and one that Oxford’s demographic seem to be using in great swathes. Our outdoor areas have allowed us to safely seat many of these customers wishing to take advantage of the offer. So for us it has been a really helpful ramp in revenue and combined with possibly Oxford’s largest alfresco dining experience has been a real welcome relief. That said trade is still massively down on where it would ordinarily be.”
The promotion gives people a discount of up to 50% when eating or drinking soft drinks in a participating restaurant or other food establishment.
It is valid all day Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 3 to 31 August. The maximum discount available is £10 per person when you eat or drink in.
Food and drink will appear on the menu at full price, and the restaurant will deduct the money off the bill and claim it back from the government.
The Cinnamon Stick Restaurant in Middle Barton, a winner at this year’s Ox In A Box Food Awards has also been fully booked following the launch of the scheme.
Jennie Barry said: “We are open for the scheme on Wednesday lunch time and Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, and are looking forward to serving lots of families who see it as a great treat during the summer holidays.”
James Waite, the manager at the newly refurbished and reopened Bell Inn in Lower Heyford added: “On Monday evening we were rammed and I had to turn customers away. We smashed our forecast and the scheme is doing what the government said it would and is driving trade. It’s still early days though so we are waiting to see what happens.”
Claire Alexander who runs The Killingworth Castle in Wootton and The Ebrington Arms in Chipping Camden, welcomed the scheme.
She said: “It’s a great idea and we are booking up fast as it only applies to us for four Wednesdays as we are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays now. We are busy anyway and turning lots of people away as we are operating with only half of our normal number of tables to make sure it is safe.”