Britons are already making the most of a 50 per cent discount on meals and soft drinks after a new scheme launched this morning at more than half of the UK’s restaurants, cafes and pubs.
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, which is backed by £500million of taxpayers’ cash.
Diners who eat out on Mondays to Wednesdays in August will have half of their bill covered by the Government, up to £10 per head – with thousands of independent venues including 40 Michelin-starred restaurants also involved.
People were enjoying the benefits this morning, with BBC presenter Jeremy Buxton tweeting: ‘Loving the UK government Eat Out To Help Out offer – family breakfast at Manchester Airport was half price! Thanks Rishi Sunak.’
He bought two paninis, one ciabatta roll, two coffees, one tea, one milkshake, two pain au chocolate and crisps for £13.67, reduced from £27.40. A postcode checker has been rolled out here to show local restaurants involved.
The launch of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s scheme, which has been dubbed ‘Rishi’s Dishes’, came as the Government faced a fresh backlash about mixed messaging and its handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Meanwhile:
- Advice that everyone should work from home was downgraded today despite a delay over lockdown easing;
- Greater Manchester declared a major incident over rising infections as residents were told to stay calm;
- Doctors will give tailored advice this autumn to anyone over 50 who is obese, overweight or in ill health;
- Two tests which can detect coronavirus and flu – and promise results in 90 minutes – are to be rolled out;
- There were rumours over tightening coronavirus rules in some areas amid fears of a looming second wave;
- Officials will start testing sewage to track Covid-19 and could ban domestic travel to stop local outbreaks;
- Lockdown rules were eased further in Wales, where 30 people can now meet outside while social distancing;
- Francis Crick Institute director Sir Paul Nurse said the Government needed to ‘treat the public as adults’.
It comes after Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said the UK had reached the ‘limit’ of what could be reopened, and swathes of the North went into local lockdown on Thursday on the eve of Eid, sparking anger from Muslims.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak, pictured at a Wagamama branch on July 8, has launched the scheme
As the Eat Out to Help Out scheme launched today, Natalie Woodhouse from Doncaster added: ‘I’m going out for breakfast to Costa with my best friend Jayne – half price, you can’t refuse, can you?’
A third Twitter user said: ‘Yay, it’s gonna be so cheap. McDonald’s for breakfast menu, TGI for lunch then Nando’s for dinner. What’s great is I can basically go through the menus at all the places I like for like 50 per cent the cost!’
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 Fridays, Côte Brasserie, Franco Manca.
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.
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.
Saturday Kitchen regular and Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton said: ‘I hope it will encourage people to enjoy high end dining, in a relaxed and affordable way. Instead of enjoying a select number of places, you can afford to indulge in a number more while supporting the restaurants and kitchens who have been dormant the past few months.
‘It means I and my chefs are back in the kitchen doing exactly what we love and we hope it helps kick start the economy.’
In Suffolk, Unruly Pig owner Brendan Padfield says: ‘I’ve certainly noticed a significant increase in calls as a result of the scheme. As my daughter calls him Dishy Rishi, well, Dishy is my hero!’
And Piers Baker, owner of the Sun Inn, in Dedham, Suffolk, has joined the scheme, but remains uncertain about the benefits for his business.
He said: ‘It will probably benefit large chain restaurants, but I can’t see it working for us, though I acknowledge that it’s a good creative measure.’
Which chains and restaurant groups are registered for the Eat Out To Help Out scheme?
Bakers + Baristas
Bannatyne Health Club
Bar + Grills
Black Sheep Coffee
Boparan Restaurant Group
Company of Cooks
The Cornish Bakery
David Lloyd Clubs
Deep Blue Fish & Chips
Dobbies Garden Centres
Gourmet Burger Kitchen
Hall & Woodhouse
Joe & The Juice
Kew Green Hotels
Mitchells & Butlers
Morrisons – Cafe and Barista Bar
New World Trading Company
Pret A Manger
Revolution Bars Group
Selfridges & Co
Shepherd Neame Ltd
St Austell Brewery
The Ivy Collection
The National Trust
Business and Industry Minister Nadhim Zahawi told BBC Breakfast: ‘People want to support great local restaurants, great independent restaurants, and of course their favourite restaurant chains as well. I think it will make a huge difference.’
He added: ‘This is a huge support from Rushi Sunak, the Chancellor, and this Government. So, I’m looking forward to going out and using the Eat Out to Help Out scheme to make sure me and my family enjoy a nice meal over those few days.’
Asked if he will be having a half price meal, Mr Zahawi said: ‘I’ll be going out and helping those restaurants in Stratford-on-Avon, in London, wherever I can, of course. I think it’s the right thing to do.’
And asked if you could choose to pay full price, he replied: ‘It’s worth all of us going out and if the Government is supporting the sector, why not?
‘We should all absolutely make sure that we go out and enjoy that restaurant.’
Mr Zahawi pointed out that it is capped at £10 per person. He also told Sky News: ‘I’ve got a family of five. We’re going to go out and grab something nice, hopefully after work this evening.’
Asked about how the scheme sits alongside the Government’s new obesity crackdown, Mr Zahawi said: ‘I think the two things aren’t contradictory at all. Restaurants are still being asked to think about the food they serve, how healthy it is…’
He said he is of heavier build and has tried to be careful what he eats during lockdown, and has been looking at the calories in his food.
‘I think that’s a good thing and I think restaurants will step up and do the right thing also by following the rules because we all need to get healthier,’ he said.
Mr Zahawi was also asked if the Government is encouraging people in areas with high infection rates to use the scheme. He said: ‘First of all, the way we are reacting to the virus is deliberately through local responses.
‘Why? Because through Test and Trace we can see how the virus is behaving, and we know that the greatest ability for the virus to infect people is when people visit other people indoors in people’s homes, hence why the action in Manchester, before that in Leicester, which as we took that action people quite rightly questioned it, but actually it’s worked and now we can ease the restrictions on Leicester.
‘I hope we’ll be able to do the same thing in Manchester if people quite rightly, I think, do the right thing and follow the guidelines,’ he told the Today programme.
Pressed on whether people in Oldham or Kirklees should feel free to use the scheme, he said: ‘Well I would say check the local guidelines. But actually, if you’re going to sit outdoors and support your local restaurant within the rules, so no more than six people or two families, then you should be able to support those restaurants, rightly so.’
Mr Zahawi said again that infection rates are spiking ‘because of people entering other people’s homes’.
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.
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.
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.
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‘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.
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
‘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.
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.
A couple using two different Amex cards could split the bill, so they could both get £5 cashback as long as they each spend at least £10 on their card.
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 Amex, not the store.
Amex 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 and restaurants. It says it wants to help small firms struggling to survive the pandemic.
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.
‘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.’
Commenting on the initiative, Will Hawkley, UK head of leisure at KPMG, said: ‘There’s no question that the hospitality sector has been hit particularly hard by the nation’s lockdown, but recovery since social distancing measures have eased hasn’t been easy either.
‘While some restaurant doors have reopened, consumers still struggle to shake off the words of caution that previously told them – in no uncertain terms – to remain at home. What’s more, the messaging on where and when to wear masks is still confusing and does not build consumer confidence – the key issue hindering any recovery for the sector.
‘The Chancellor’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme was certainly a creative way for the government to encourage consumers to go out again. Who would have thought even six months ago that the government would be paying consumers to eat out in pubs and restaurants, and what is not to love about getting part of your bill paid?
‘Having said that, the initiative needs to be viewed alongside the ebb and flow of the pandemic. We’re already starting to see local restrictions coming back into effect, and that’s not going to help consumer confidence.
‘As we look ahead to August, we will no doubt see busy pub gardens in the suburbs. However, worries around what will happen in city centres or during the winter when the nights draw in and the weather gets colder, still remain.’
Wetherspoon said more than 700 of its outlets will offer a selection of meals, with a drink, at a lower price than the equivalent from Tesco.
It is offering a £1.60 breakfast including a free-range egg, back bacon rasher, Lincolnshire sausage, a hash brown and Heinz baked beans.
Bill’s Restaurant and Bar in Soho, London, which is also involved in the scheme from today
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
When this is combined with coffee and free refills it adds up to £2.24. The chain claims that a ready meal equivalent from Tesco would be £2.33.
How can a restaurant join the scheme?
Those who have already registered are good to go from today, but those who haven’t can still sign up until the end of the month.
The main requirement is that this is an ‘eat in’ scheme, so you must sell food to be eaten on site and you must have, or share, a dining area for customers.
It means popular takeaway chains such as Domino’s are not taking part, and you won’t get the discount at drive-thru branches of chains such as McDonald’s.
The size of the eat-in area is not given, so some places with only a couple of tables could offer the discount, but this would only be available to the customers sat at those tables.
You couldn’t get the discount if they were full and you needed to take your food away. Restaurant bosses need to keep the records for each day they have used the scheme, including the total number of diners and total amount of discount given.
They then make a claim seven days after the date of registration — August 7 at the earliest. HMRC then gives out a claim reference number and (all going to plan) the claim amount goes into the registered bank account in five days. Businesses will still need to pay VAT based on the full amount of the customer’s bill before the scheme discount is applied.
There is a larger breakfast that will cost £1.75, which includes a free-range egg, back bacon rasher, Lincolnshire sausage, two hash browns, Heinz baked beans, tomato, toast and butter.
Other deals it claims are cheaper than Tesco include £2.75 for an 11-inch Margherita pizza and Pepsi Max, and £2.37 for a deli deal, comprising a Southern-fried chicken and smoky chipotle mayo wrap, with chips and Remedy Kombucha raspberry lemonade.
Under the scheme, the company’s pubs will sell coffee for 65p and a classic burger with soft drink for £2.50.
Children’s meals, where choices include spaghetti Bolognese and five-bean chilli, with each meal including a drink and a banana or a fruit snack, will cost just £2.08.
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.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak was in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, on Saturday to promote the Eat Out to Help Out scheme
Toby Carvery in Langley, Slough, one of the participating restaurants in Eat Out to Help Out
‘That would put this single meal over the NHS daily recommended intake by over 100 calories.’
What are the new deals at Wetherspoon pubs?
- £1.60 for breakfast including a free-range egg, back bacon rasher, Lincolnshire sausage, a hash brown and Heinz baked beans
- £2.75 for an 11-inch Margherita pizza and Pepsi Max
- £2.37 for a a Southern-fried chicken and smoky chipotle mayo wrap, with chips and Remedy Kombucha raspberry lemonade
- £2.50 classic burger with soft drink
- £2.08 for a children’s meal such as spaghetti Bolognese and five-bean chilli, with a drink and a banana or a fruit snack
- 65p for coffee with free refills
he 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.’
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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 today.
‘We already have a table booked,’ said Mrs Mason-Byers. ‘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 Mr Mason-Byers, who is head of operations for a franchise company, and his wife 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 Mrs Mason-Byers. ‘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.’