More than half of the country’s restaurants, cafes and pubs have signed up to provide a 50 per cent discount on meals and soft drinks from today.
More than 90 chains including McDonald’s, Nando’s, Pizza Express and Costa Coffee are among the 72,000 venues taking part in Eat Out to Help Out.
Thousands of independent venues including at least 40 Michelin starred restaurants have also registered with the scheme, backed by £500million of taxpayers’ cash.
Diners who eat out on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays during August will have half of their bill covered by the government, up to £10 per head.
To use the postcode checker which reveals participating restaurants in the Eat Out to Help Out scheme within two miles of where you live, click here
Madison Dock (centre) from Johnstone, Renfrewshire, sits outside intu Braehead in Glasgow where diners will be able to enjoy half-price meals, at participating restaurants from today
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the scheme that is designed to boost the hospitality industry in his summer economic update last month.
The discount means that a £50 restaurant bill for a family of four would be reduced to £25. A couple spending £60 would only have to pay £40.
Q&A: When is Eat Out to Help Out on and do I need a voucher?
When is it available?
It runs every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from August 3 to 31.
What is it?
A 50 per cent discount when you eat in up to a maximum saving of £10 per diner. The business reclaims the value of the saving from government.
What establishments can take part?
Restaurants, cafés, bars or pubs; work and school canteens; food halls.
What are the restrictions?
No discount on alcoholic drinks or service charges.
Do I need a voucher?
No. The discount will be automatically applied by the participating outlet. The saving can be used alongside other offers and discounts.
How do I find participating outlets?
Treasury has set up a postcode finder that will list outlets offering a scheme within a two mile radius – here
What about chain restaurants?
Ninety businesses have registered to take part in the scheme, including McDonald’s, Burger King, and KFC; burger chains such as GBK, Five Guys, Honest Burgers; coffee shops such as Costa, Starbucks, Pret a Manger, Caffe Nero; pub chains such as Wetherspoon, Fullers, Greene King, Mitchells & Butlers; restaurant chains such as Wagamama, Pizza Hut, Pizza Express, TGI Friday, Côte Brasserie, Franco Manca.
Soft drinks and food will be included in the deal although alcohol will not. Meals must be consumed on the premises so takeaways will be not discounted.
There has been some criticism that the government is providing a taxpayer-funded subsidy for fast food at the same time as urging the nation to lose weight.
The move is designed to increase confidence among the public and encourage people to visit restaurateurs, many of whom were badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, particularly during the lockdown months when much of their business was put on hold.
But critics have aimed fire at the interventionist plan and said fast-food outlets serving unhealthy products should have been banned from participating due to fears the subsidised costs could fuel obesity.
It also attracted controversy once it emerged that Mr Sunak had to make a ministerial order to enact the policy after HM Revenue and Customs chief executive Jim Harra said there was ‘uncertainty surrounding the value for money of this proposal’.
Around 80 per cent of hospitality firms stopped trading in April, with 1.4 million workers furloughed – the highest of any sector – according to Government data.
Many of the outlets that have reopened have been forced to operate with fewer covers to comply with social distancing rules, while also having in some cases to introduce screens and one-way systems as part of efforts to make their premises Covid-secure.
Mr Sunak said last night: ‘Our Eat Out to Help Out scheme’s number one aim is to help protect the jobs of 1.8 million chefs, waiters and restaurateurs by boosting demand and getting customers through the door.
‘More than 72,000 establishments will be serving discounted meals across the country, with the government paying half the bill.
‘The industry is a vital ingredient to our economy and it’s been hit hard by coronavirus, so enjoy summer safely by showing your favourite places your support – we’ll pay half.’
No vouchers are required for those booking tables, with the participating establishment deducting 50 per cent from the bill and charging the discount to the Treasury.
Toby Carvery in Langley, Slough, one of the participating restaurants in Eat Out to Help Out
The Ivy Restaurant in London, one of the participating restaurants where diners will be able to enjoy half-price meals from today as the Government begins its Eat Out to Help Out scheme
Officials said there had been more than 3.3 million hits on the Eat Out to Help Out restaurant finder website since it started up last week, giving an indication of the demand for the month-long saver scheme.
Which restaurants are taking part in Eat Out to Help Out from today?
Here are some of the major chains taking part in the scheme.
- Ask Italian
- Burger King
- Caffe Nero
- Costa Coffee
- Five Guys
- Franco Manca
- Gourmet Burger Kitchen
- Greene King
- Honest Burgers
- Patisserie Valerie
- Pizza Express
- Pizza Hut
- Pret A Manger
- Turtle Bay
- YO! Sushi
But Munira Wilson MP, the Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman, said the Chancellor should have prevented diners from using the discount to buy junk food.
The start of the scheme comes only a week after Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled the Government’s obesity crackdown.
‘We all recognise the need to support the high street through the pandemic, but the Government should have been more discerning with this scheme,’ said Ms Wilson.
‘Obesity is already an immense challenge for people and the NHS, but the latest research suggests it also contributes to the deadliness of coronavirus.
‘With a number of fast-food chains signing up to the scheme, it seems clear that public health did not factor into the Government’s decision.
‘The Government must put public health first and exclude from the scheme meals and drinks proven to contribute to obesity. We cannot afford to risk lives as we reopen the economy.’
The new scheme has also faced criticism from politicians in northern areas who say it is unhelpful in newly locked-down parts of Lancashire and Greater Manchester.
The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, described the scheme as a mistake, saying the government should not be subsidising meals out without releasing funds for low-paid workers to take time off to self-isolate.
Writing in the Sunday Mirror, he said: ‘National lockdown was eased too soon and encouraging people back to the pub on Super Saturday was a big mistake as is the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.
‘We shouldn’t spend taxpayers’ money on subsidizing meals out but not support the low-paid to take time off work to protect their health.’
The Treasury previously said 130,000 businesses were eligible to sign up for the scheme.
More than 72,000 eateries have signed up to the scheme, according to Chancellor Rishi Sunak
A Treasury spokesman said: ‘The Eat Out To Help Out scheme is designed to help protect the jobs of the 1.8 million hard-working people employed by restaurants, cafes and pubs across the UK.
How you could get a further £5 off your meal out with an Amex card
American Express is giving customers £5 cashback for spending £10 or more in small shops, which can can be used in conjunction with the Government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme.
It means you could buy a meal costing £20, get £10 off at the restaurant through the Government discount, then a further £5 cashback via Amex – meaning you pay just £5 for the meal.
To tempt shoppers back to high streets, the Brighton-based credit card giant has launched a reward deal for customers who spend money in local stores and restaurants.
Under the scheme, you can qualify for the £5 cashback up to ten times – meaning up to £50 is available to each customer.
You can use the offer only once at each retailer. The cashback is being funded by American Express, not the store.
American Express has signed up thousands of small businesses across the UK for the deal, including family-run butchers, clothes shops and hair salons in addition to pubs, restaurants and local fish and chip shops.
It says it wants to help small firms struggling to survive the pandemic.
‘We’ve worked with the hospitality industry and the devolved administrations to put in place guidelines so people are able to enjoy summer safely in Covid-secure establishments.’
In Scotland, at least 3,766 outlets have signed up, though this figure does not include chains which have more than 26 premises.
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: ‘Eat out to help out is a fantastic scheme which will help Scotland’s hospitality businesses get back on their feet.
‘I am very pleased that 3,766 Scottish restaurants, bars and cafes have signed up.
‘This is a great opportunity for people in Scotland to get together with friends and family in a safe environment and get up to 50% off their bill.
‘The UK Government is doing all it can to drive our economic recovery, and we want to see all sectors of our economy open again where it is safe to do so.’
Meanwhile, a study suggests there is a risk that participants will use the saving to pile their plates with high calorie foods weighed down with sugar, fat and salt.
It was conducted by weight loss experts Noom, which said: ‘Britons could unwittingly consume an entire day’s calories in one meal through the scheme.’
Researchers said: ‘Guests visiting their local Nando’s can normally order Chicken Butterfly, chips and coleslaw, which totalling 1,080 calories, for £10.30.
‘However, with the government’s scheme, they can add peri-peri nuts and carrot cake, which would bring the order total to just £8.85 but a whopping 2,610 calories.
‘That would put this single meal over the NHS daily recommended intake by over 100 calories.’
The Eat Out to Help Out scheme follows hot on the heels of the Government’s obesity strategy announcement and a call from Mr Johnson for people to lose five pounds in weight.
It includes controls on junk food advertising, the sale of chocolates, crisps and sweets at checkouts. It also wants food businesses to display calories on menus.
Chief of Psychology at Noom, which encourages lifestyle changes, Andreas Michaelides, (correct) said people do not have to give up treats, but rather take care of their wider diet.
‘It can be tricky to choose healthier options when eating out, especially with such an enticing offer from the UK Government,’ he said.
‘While lockdown has impacted all of our day-to-day routines, it also offers the unique opportunity to develop new habits for our new normal, including cooking meals from scratch at home, where we have greater control over ingredients and portions.
‘The goal is not to remove all indulgences, but to approach them mindfully and with purpose.’
Professor of public health nutrition at Teesside University, Amelia Lake, said: ‘Offering subsidies on food which is particularly associated with being less healthy completely contradicts the other message around reducing obesity.
‘On one hand we are hearing that tackling obesity is an urgent public health challenge, but on the other we are seeing actions that we know do not help us reduce obesity. There needs to be clear messaging and joined up action.’
We’ll now eat out twice a week, say family of five who last went out for a meal four months ago
The last time Laura Mason-Byers and her family ate at a restaurant near their Worcestershire home was four months ago, just days before lockdown.
The communications manager, 36, her husband Colin, 37, and children Marley, four, Noah, seven, and Grace, eight, had been regular eat-out diners, and can’t wait to sit down in a restaurant again on Monday.
‘We already have a table booked,’ says Laura. ‘Miller & Carter, a steakhouse in Millbrook, Bromsgrove, which we drive past every day when we take Marley to nursery.
(From left) Grace, 8, Colin, 37, Laura, 36, Noah, 7, and Marley Mason-Byers, 4
‘The last time we went out was for Noah’s birthday back in March — thankfully we decided to go out before his birthday, because lockdown ended up being before the date itself.
‘We normally eat out two to three times a month; a cheeky midweek meal at a gastro pub, or a family curry on a Sunday, so we’ve really missed it.’
Both Colin, who is head of operations for a franchise company, and Laura have been working from home full-time while juggling childcare, so they are relieved to be able to go out and let someone else do hard work in the kitchen. So much so, they have already booked restaurants — and sometimes two — for every week in August.
‘I’ve had enough of cooking, so this is great,’ says Laura. ‘We’ve booked some meals as a family, but I have also booked a couple of places just so my husband and I can have a date night.’