'We'd know what to expect' - should Eat Out to Help Out return?
- Credit: Archant
Restaurant owners who were overrun with demand in Eat Out to Help Out say they would still welcome its return and would make changes after last year's experience.
The scheme ran last August, and gave diners 50pc off their meals, up to £10 per person, on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
It was largely hailed a success from a business perspective, though received criticism for being in the wrong month - the combination of school holidays, more staycations and warm weather saw some tourist areas overwhelmed with demand - and for potentially leading to coronavirus spread.
With hospitality among the hardest-hit industries, it has been mooted that chancellor Rishi Sunak will reintroduce a similar scheme once lockdown has come to an end in his Budget on March 3.
Mr Sunak has not confirmed these plans, but refused to rule out the possibility in November.
Shun Tomii, who runs Shiki Japanese restaurant in Norwich, said the scheme had seen the restaurant become "crazy busy".
You may also want to watch:
"We weren't really ready for it," he said. "We had hundreds of missed calls every day, every night, as well as emails and direct messages on Instagram and Facebook.
"There were some angry people because they couldn't get a table, because there was obviously high demand on outside tables. We had a really tough time."
- 1 Couple turn grain store into 'James Bond' home
- 2 Man found dead in Norwich hotel
- 3 Rose-tinted reaction to Duke's death was so out of proportion
- 4 Local pub splashes back into action
- 5 'Loving and devoted' - Family pay tribute to mother-of-five found in park
- 6 Man died after knife fight with housemate
- 7 Police swoop after £400k cocaine parcel delivered to Norwich house
- 8 Norwich pub allowed to reopen after licensing u-turn
- 9 'Illegal and unsafe' - Rave attended by 100 revellers is shut down
- 10 Roadworks cause traffic chaos in north Norfolk town
He said there had been positives, though, in that it did introduce some new customers who had since returned.
He said if it was reintroduced he would most likely take part again, but said he had concerns that it had contributed to coronavirus spread and that he would significantly reduce capacity.
And Steve Munson, at The Gull Inn on the A146 at Framingham Pigot, said Eat Out to Help Out was "spectacular" and had been so busy they were forced to turn people away.
He said it saw families opt for more expensive dishes off the menu, with steaks making up a significant chunk of orders and becoming so in demand they needed daily deliveries to keep up.
But she said she would support a second outing - as long as it wasn't in August, an already busy time for tourist areas.
"If it came about we would do it again," she said, "we have got the processes in place and we have done it before so we would have a good idea of what to expect this time.
"But August is a terrible time to do it. They could give a three, four month leeway of when a business could choose to do it. In June and in September you need to generate business."
Earlier this month, delivery website Deliveroo and 300 other restaurant groups called on the government to relaunch the scheme, and introduce other measures including prioritising hospitality staff for rapid testing and vaccination.
What is the science?
Previous case data has shown spread in hospitality settings can be low compared with others including workplaces and hospitals.
Earlier this month, Paul Hunter, a medical professor at the University of East Anglia, said the deal may have contributed to the spread, but was not the sole factor behind increased transmission rates.
"There's no single thing that will be the only factor to make the disease come or go," he said.
"There is evidence that the Eat Out to Help Out contributed to increased cases in early September. Most epidemiologists believe [it] did contribute to increased transmission, but by no means was it the only thing that contributed."
A study by Warwick University last autumn found areas with a higher rate of uptake experienced a "sharp increase in the emergence of new Covid-i9 infection clusters a week after the scheme began".
They estimated that between 8pc and 17pc of the newly-detected Covid-19 infection clusters could be attributed to the scheme.
Areas with high uptake saw a decline in new infections a week after the scheme ended, they said.
For more food and drink news sign up to our fortnightly food and drink newsletter here.