Eat out to help out: Will it work?

By Alex De Boick

The government’s big, catchy initiative ‘eat out to help out’ kicked off on Monday, offering a reduction of up to £10 on food and drink (excluding alcohol) without the need for a voucher, discount code or minimum spend on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays only. Over 72,000 bars and restaurants across the UK have already signed up to take part in the scheme, including major chains such as McDonald’s, Nando’s, and Pizza Express.

The scheme is designed to revive the struggling restaurant industry, which has been so badly affected by the economic devastation in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as restoring people’s confidence to go out and spend money in their local areas, but will it work? It’s early days yet but there are some promising signs that its at least making some difference - one statistic suggests that 19% more people visited shops and leisure parks on Monday 3rd August than the previous Monday. It does seem to vary between businesses though. Some have reported booming amounts of customers while others have seen increases in bookings on Mondays-Wednesdays but reductions on the weekend.

Clearly, it’s too early to make any conclusive statements about the scheme but some have expressed concern that participating restaurants include fast-food chains such as McDonald’s and Burger King. Many consider this an oversight on the part of the government considering that this time last week Boris Johnson was outlining plans to help curb the obesity crisis in the UK. Offering such a substantial discount at already relatively cheap restaurants such as McDonald’s may encourage overeating with some people reportedly using the money to buy double portions.

While it’s true that McDonald’s and other fast-food firms are a big employer in the UK, and that they inevitably suffered an economic downturn as a result of the pandemic, how much difference this discount is going to make for them remains to be seen. Perhaps a better implementation of this policy would have been to offer bigger discounts for smaller businesses, such as independent pubs and restaurants, while still offering a slight discount at bigger chains to encourage people to get out and about. This could’ve even been tied into the government’s obesity initiative by offering better discounts on healthier dishes and alternatives.

Ultimately, many will see this as too little too late for the struggling restaurant sector where nearly every day we are informed that thousands more have lost their jobs. The government will use pictures of packed-out restaurants to decry the scheme as an overwhelming success but without a more substantial plan to repair the damage inflicted, this is little more than a sticking plaster, masking the deep economic wounds created by the COVID-19 pandemic.


Disclaimer: All views expressed in this piece belong solely to the author and do not reflect the views of Demographica as a company

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