Diners lap up discounts but operators are divided over Eat Out to Help Out

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Diners lap up discounts but restaurateurs and operators are divided over Eat Out to Help Out

Related tags: Cga, Restaurant, Eatouttohelpout, Coronavirus

Operators are split over how helpful the Chancellor’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme has been, according to the latest Hospitality Leaders Poll carried out by Lumina Intelligence.

While 50% of operators say the scheme has exceeded their expectations, a narrow majority of 55% believe the Monday to Wednesday discount has negatively impacted their weekend trade.

There was a 50-50 split down the middle on average spend, with half reporting an increase and half seeing a decrease.

The Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which launched at the beginning of the month, is aimed at protecting jobs in the hospitality industry and encouraging people to safely return to dining out.  

Restaurants, bars, cafes and other establishments who use the scheme will offer a 50% reduction, up to a maximum of £10 per person, to all diners who eat and/or drink-in on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout August.  

It can be used by diners who order food and/or drinks for consumption on the premises, however, alcohol is excluded from the offer.

Lumina's research shows that confidence grew off the back of the scheme’s launch, with the number of hospitality operators saying they were ‘quite confident’, ‘confident’ or ‘very confident’ in the future of their business increasing six percentage points from 64% to 71% week-on-week. 

Meanwhile, food sales in Britain’s managed pubs and group restaurants have risen by a third week-on-week since the launch of the scheme, according to the latest research by data consultancy CGA.

The data, from CGA’s Volume Pool of 7,000 managed outlets, shows that on the first day of the initiative (Monday 3 August), food sales were 100% up on the previous Monday (27 July), with similar surges of 95% and 106% on the Tuesday and Wednesday (4 and 5 August).

With the deal only available to consumers in the first half of the week, there was some uncertainty among operators that it could impact trade levels in the latter half. 

However, while the data revealed that sales were down 4% week-on-week on Thursday 4 August, across the seven-day period (to Sunday 7 August) food sales saw a 31% uplift.

Following news from the Government that consumers used the scheme more than 10.5 million times in the first week, CGA’s consumer pulse survey found that just over a quarter (27%) of British adults had utilised the discount before 11 August; and 31% said they were likely to do so before the end of the month. 

The survey reveals that a quarter (26%) of adults would be less likely to eat out at weekends having made use of the scheme. 

However, just over half (54%) said their frequency would be unaffected; and a fifth (20%) would be more likely.

Crucially, the scheme appears to have achieved the sector’s hope of bringing back people who were previously hesitant about eating out.  

Nearly two fifths (39%) of those who have used Eat Out to Help Out were making their first visit to the sector since the end of lockdown; and of those who are still to eat or drink out, a quarter (26%) say they are likely to make use of the scheme before it ends.

With trust rising, there are strong signs that the scheme will gather momentum in the second half of August. 

More than half (57%) of consumers who plan to use it said they would do so at least weekly, and only 17% said they would use it only once.

“This data shows the Eat Out to Help Out scheme is having the desired effect of boosting food sales for restaurants, pubs and others at a time when they need it most,” says Karl Chessell, business unit director for food and retail at CGA.​ 

“Along with operators’ stringent hygiene precautions, it is encouraging consumers to venture out and see that they can have a safe as well as good value meal out. 

“As the scheme goes on it will hopefully begin to have a positive impact on footfall on other days of the week too—though it is already clear that the sector will need sustained support from government after the scheme ends at the end of the month.”

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