The Government-backed scheme, which officially wraps on 31 August, has allowed operators to offer customers a 50% discount – up to a maximum of £10 per person – all day, every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday food and non-alcoholic drinks consumed on site since 3 August.
What’s more, according to research by global intelligence platform Streetbees, almost two thirds (60%) of Brits who’ve eaten a discounted meal wouldn’t have done so had it not been for the scheme.
The scheme is expected to cost the Government in the region of £50m based on the Treasury’s estimates that the average discount claim will be about £5. Nonetheless, the Government has set aside £500m to fund the initiative.
Customer behaviour changing
However, following the success of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, Heineken’s pub arm Star Pubs and Bars, has pledged an extra £250,000 to ensure that its 90 Just Add Talent managed sites can continue offering the same discount throughout September.
The move designed to help operators increase post-lockdown takings has seen food sales increase from 14% to more than 30% of turnover in Star’s managed during the last month, with EOTHO increasing their turnover by 43% since the pubs reopened post lockdown
“The dishes we sold during the EOTHO scheme reflect the change in profile of customers and in their desire to trade up, which wasn’t immediate but continued to grow over three weeks,” Star Pubs & Bars’ retail concept manager Beki Davies explained.
“For the first time ever our children’s menu and desserts made our top 10 best sellers. We sold 680 rump steaks in the first week compared to 1800 last week.
“Whilst we expected to see a rise in food sales Monday-Wednesday, we actually saw a week on week increase in Thursday – Sunday total sales.
“We also sold more starters and desserts indicating an increase in dwell time, and more premium lagers like Heineken Served Extra Cold and Birra Moretti.
“Customers are changing their behaviour, coming out, more often and increasing their spend per head.”
Arc Inspirations, which operates 17 bars across the north of England under its Banyan Bar & Kitchen, Box and Manahatta brands, has also pledged to fund the continuation of the 50% customer discount throughout September.
“It’s been a phenomenal success for us with total sales up 111% across Monday to Wednesday, which is very pleasing,” chief executive Martin Wolstencroft said. “Trading later in the week has also not been adversely affected which is also encouraging.
“We would like to see the Government extend the scheme, but regardless, we are continuing into next month with a 50% discount on food Monday – Tuesday and removing the £10 cap. We’re looking forward to keeping the momentum going, introducing some exciting new menu dishes and welcoming more guests through our doors.
What's more, Dorset-based brewer and pub operator Hall and Woodhouse also confirmed that 37 participating pubs from its 180-strong stable will continue to offer customers the half-price deal.
“We have been delighted by our communities’ positive response to the ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ scheme, so it only seemed right that we extend the offer ourselves, as a thank you to the guests who have supported us since our reopening,” Matt Kearsey, managing director of Hall & Woodhouse, explained.
“We also wanted to ensure that guests who are yet to visit us due to the high demand during August, still have the opportunity to benefit from the discount throughout September.
“We are thankful for the Government’s support that was available to us throughout August, that not only supported our industry as a whole, but also provided guests with a phenomenal incentive to experience our safe and well-managed pubs.
“We felt it was important to extend this offer beyond the government’s support and run this offer ourselves, to build on the momentum that has been made across our estate since the easing of lockdown.”
Additionally, Oakman Inns, which runs 28 sites across midlands and home counties, will also continue to offer 50% off food and soft drinks throughout September in an extension of the EOTHO scheme.
According to the company’s CEO, Dermot King, EOTHO has achieved its aim of coaxing customers who were hesitant about eating out back into pubs, bars and restaurants.
“According to one recent survey, more than half said that the experience made them feel more confident about going out in the near future, and most of the rest (45%) said their confidence was unaffected,” King said.
“There is no doubt that EOTHO has been a major factor in helping us get back on our feet after several months without any revenue at all.”
Further support needed
However, while King believes that the scheme has provided an “encouraging start” to the hospitality sector’s recovery from Covid-19, he’s calling on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to provide the sector with further support.
“It has been a very encouraging start, but the road to recovery is going to be a very long one and it is going to take much more than a few months of offers to get the hospitality sector back to where it was before lockdown,” he said.
“We urgently need a review of the fiscal disparity between supermarkets and the hospitality sector with a specific focus on VAT. We would like to see 5% VAT extended past the January deadline but extended to include all processed foods, such as ready meals, sandwiches, pasties etc – money which could be pumped straight back into healthier school meals, giving every kid a chance to have a better start in life.”
“We also need to have a root and branch examination of the entire business rates system which provides a fairer and more coherent tax, and we would further urge the Chancellor to scrap employers’ National Insurance contributions on all employees who earn under £20,000. This would help create jobs at a time when people all over the country are losing theirs. The current system effectively taxes job creation and we must bring an end to that.”