Rishi Sunak urges diners to keep supporting eateries after Covid subsidy ends | Business

The chancellor is urging UK consumers to continue eating out at restaurants, as he winds up the government’s subsidised dining scheme on Monday.

The move comes after diners have claimed more than 64m meals – the equivalent of one for nearly every person in the country – since Rishi Sunak introduced his eat out to help out campaign to help preserve hospitality jobs in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The initiative was designed to entice consumers back to hospitality venues by offering a half-price discount up to a maximum of £10 per head on food and non-alcoholic drink from Mondays to Wednesdays in August.

It has proved so popular that many restaurants have called for the government to extend it and some chains have decided to continue the offer into September at their own cost.

Sunak said: “As the eat out to help out scheme draws to a close, I want to say thank you to the diners who have fallen back in love with their local, to the managers who have spent weeks ensuring their restaurants were safe and to the chefs, waiters and waitresses across the country who have worked tirelessly, sometimes with more customers than they’ve ever had before – all helping to protect 1.8m jobs in the hospitality sector.”

He added: “The scheme reminded us why we as a nation love dining out and I urge diners to maintain the momentum to help continue our economic recovery.”

The Treasury estimated the scheme would cost £500m, although the final bill for the Treasury will depend on the take-up for the last week in August and could rise beyond initial estimates.

A paper published by the House of Commons library stated last week: “If claims continue at the level shown as of 23 August (£37m per day of the scheme in operation), the cost of the scheme would be around £485m. However, some businesses may not have claimed yet, so the final figure is likely to be higher. Claims have been increasing week-on-week and businesses have until the end of September to submit claims.”

While the scheme has proved popular with diners and restaurant chains, it has attracted criticism over whether it would prove to be a sensible use of taxpayers’ money.

There are concerns that some diners will have switched plans to dine out on full-price days in favour of government-subsidised days, with Jim Harra, the chief executive of HMRC, writing to Sunak last month to warn of “the uncertainty surrounding the value for money of this proposal”.

However, some restaurant chains appear to believe discounted dining days are beneficial to trade, with a number announcing that they plan to continue with a version of the scheme after the government subsidy has been removed.

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Harvester, Stonehouse Pizza & Carvery and Toby Carvery, brands operated by pub and restaurant group Mitchells & Butlers, will offer a 50% discount on main meals on Monday to Wednesday in the first two weeks of September.

Revolution Bars, which has 74 outlets, is offering 50% off food and soft drinks including mocktails from Monday to Wednesday all day throughout September.

The Prezzo chain is offering a two-course set menu for £10 from Monday to Wednesday in September, while Pizza Hut is offering two-for-one on main meals on those days for customers signed up to their database, and Tesco Café has 50% off its full menu Monday to Wednesday throughout the month, with no limits on the discount.

Source: The Guardian

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