By Ikra Shabir
The UK government has launched the Eat Out to Help Out scheme from the 3rd August to 31st August 2020, where diners will receive a 50% discount on food or non-alcoholic drinks if they eat in at restaurants that are registered with the scheme. This discount is applicable every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and it is aimed to help businesses that have been badly affected by the lockdown. Although the scheme seems to be beneficial (to both business and diners), there are a few pointers that are worth considering.
The Eat Out to Help scheme that launched this month seems to be quite the contradictory move, when the government late in July stated to unveil a £10m campaign “Better Health” to tackle the obesity crisis . This contradicts with the chancellor's new promise as many of those who have signed up for this new scheme include McDonald's and the like. Of course, both portray important messages, however, doing both at the same time without addressing the major issue implies this is a contradiction that has not been thoroughly thought through.
As the scheme is effective from Mondays – Wednesdays, several restaurants, cafes and pubs will become extremely popular on these days, which will be beneficial for these businesses and the economy. One negative consequence will be people rushing to come on these days which may hinder social distancing policies. People will generally aim to eat out from Mondays – Wednesdays, which might result in restaurants becoming overcrowded. This could be an issue as restaurants perhaps may not be able to cater to all potential customers as they also need to abide by the social distance policies.
It is highly likely people will arrange to go out to eat on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays rather than Fridays or the weekend, and may postpone or rearrange plans to suit the Eat Out to Help Out scheme. This would defeat the purpose of getting people to eat out more and increase the customers at restaurants – rather it would just mean more customers on Mondays to Wednesdays and fewer customers on the rest of the days of the week. It is worth considering whether the scheme may potentially backfire, as restaurants and businesses may not do so well on other days of the week if there are fewer customers than usual.
Will the Scheme help Pubs?
The obvious question is how much will the Eat Out to Help Out scheme help and benefit pubs if alcohol is not included in the discounts? Customers usually come to pubs for alcoholic drinks, in which case the scheme may be of little benefit for pubs. Certain pubs may change to adapt to this scheme i.e. they might offer more non-alcoholic drinks and food. Whether this will attract fewer or more customers cannot be said for certain. A few questions to ponder on can include: would it have been better for pubs to not be part of the scheme? Would it make much difference if they were or were not part of the scheme?