Coronavirus: Some restaurants extend Eat Out to September
In some of our recent insights, we look at “Is this the end of the Great British pub as we know it” and “Will economic measures announced in the July ‘mini-Budget’ help revitalise the hospitality industry?”. We have now come to the end of the Government’s month of August Eat Out To Help Out scheme. So where are we now? What does the new pub look like amidst rules on social distancing? How successful has the scheme been economically? And what are the views of the consumers and those working in hospitality?
Personally, I have enjoyed a taste of normality in being able to go out for dinner and drinks, whilst enjoying a discount at the same time. I, like many others, have been drawn in by scheme. Table bookings on a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday throughout August have been getting snapped like hot cakes. The new look pub has many features including no queuing at the bar, screens between tables, one way systems, apps to order food straight to the table, and of course hand sanitiser wherever you glance. The confidence of consumers going back to pubs and restaurants is certainly growing. Although some are at a limited capacity, with venues being completely booked up during the scheme, this new normal has certainly created the atmospheric buzz enjoyed by many, lapping up the opportunity for a cold pint and some highly missed pub chips.
Some restaurants have even chosen to extend the scheme at their own cost. This includes the Elite Pubs chain with venues across Kent which have been packed out during the scheme in August. A large number of restaurants in London have also chosen to continue the scheme into September. This is a good sign that venues are keen to keep drawing customers in. The Treasury recently tweeted that “over 64 million meals have been claimed through the scheme, helping to protect and support 1.8 million jobs”.
There have however been a few reports on struggles with the scheme. This has included struggles in maintaining social distancing after people have had a few drinks, especially when the restaurant/pub is fully booked. Staff have also reported being rushed off their feet for those days when the scheme is running and facing abuse from customers, generally being rude and complaining of long waits for food or being unable to book a table. Some have also said that it has meant less people attending over the weekend.
In my personal experience over the last month eating out on days when the scheme was running and when it wasn’t, everything has appeared to run very smoothly. Venues have still been very busy at the weekends. We are all grabbing at and trying to make the most of any final signs of Summer. Being able to go out and enjoy a meal out with friends and family will not only boost the economy, but boost everyone’s spirits when it is most needed as we head into Autumn/Winter. As a nation of food lovers, we love to eat out and socialise. As the darker nights and days start to draw in, the draw for a Sunday roast at your local will also be there. If continuing the scheme into September means it gets more people out, increases consumer confidence whilst keeping people in work and businesses running, then long may the new look pub continue – boosting spirits and staying safe.