Several small businesses have united to urge Rishi Sunak to extend the Eat Out to Help Out scheme further than its arranged finish date at the end of August.
The programme offers diners reductions on their meals and soft drinks at restaurants across the country from Monday to Wednesday, with the government footing the rest of the bill. It was introduced to help the many eateries hard-hit by the coronavirus lockdown.
With meals slashed to half price, up to the value of £10 per head, it has been a popular initiative for customers and restaurant bosses alike – and some would like to see the scheme continue.
Mike Cherry, the chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said in a statement: ‘The Eat Out to Help Out scheme has been an overwhelming success in getting people back on their high streets and in their town centres.
‘We now need to see it extended to continue the critical support that it is providing for small firms as we enter a period of economic make or break.’
Speaking on behalf of the businesses, Mr Cherry suggested that the Chancellor continues Eat Out to Help Out for an additional month while many people return to their workplaces.
He said it had provided an additional boost to venues that needed it, adding: ‘Over the past few weeks, the scheme has been hugely welcomed by small businesses and their customers alike.
‘A nationwide one-month extension would go some way to helping many firms which are still only just about managing in this time of crisis.
‘More than 35,000,000 meals have been cooked and dished out across almost 50,000 restaurants and cafes who have been able to reap the rewards of this great initiative, but as we enter September with schools reopening and more people going back to their places of work, there are still strong merits to continuing this for one more month.’
Mr Cherry also argued that an extension should also include community hubs that were not eligible for the recent VAT cut for food, including pubs.
In data released on Tuesday, the government announced that they’d reached 64,000,000 discounted meals by the fourth week of the scheme.
However, while 93% of adults told the Office for National Statistics (ONS) they are aware of the scheme, just 11% said they had used it by August 16.
Mr Sunak has not yet commented on whether the scheme will be extended. In response to the growing numbers of people taking advantage of the discounts, he expressed his satisfaction in the initiative’s success.
He said: ‘This scheme has reminded us how much we love to dine out, and in doing so, how this is helping to protect the jobs of nearly 2,000,000 people who work in hospitality.
‘I am urging everyone, where they can, to continue to safely enjoy a meal while the scheme remains open.’
MORE: The best Eat Out to Help Out restaurants in each area of London
MORE: I work in a restaurant and I want you to be nicer to your servers when you Eat Out to Help Out
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