Restaurants boosted by first days of half-price meals

The Government’s promise to pick up half the tab to get people to return to eating out across the UK has led to an increase of around one sixth, according to two surveys.

Springboard, experts in measuring footfall in Britain’s high streets, said the number of people in retail destinations surged by 18.9% after 6pm last Monday compared with the week before.

Meanwhile, lunchtime visits were up by 9.6%, Springboard said.

The data tallies with a similar measure from Yolt, a money app, which saw a 14% jump in the number of its users paying for meals out.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has put aside around £500 million to pick up half the bill for diners who patronise restaurants during 13 days in August.

Every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday during the month, the Eat Out To Help Out scheme means that people can get 50% off their bill, up to a maximum of £10.

The deal excludes alcoholic drinks.

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Springboard said overall footfall had increased by 3.8% in the UK’s high streets, shopping centres and retail parks.

However, it added that comparing the first Monday in August to the last Monday in July is misleading as July 27 was very rainy, pushing down footfall.

Instead it preferred to look at Tuesday and Wednesday, where footfall was down by 0.6% against the previous week at lunchtime, and up 12.2% after 6pm.

Overall footfall rose by 2.6% on Tuesday and Wednesday, lower than the rise of 5.9% on the same days the week before.

Springboard’s insights director, Diane Wehrle, said: “The jury is still out regarding the benefit of the Eat Out To Help Out scheme which launched last week, although there were rises in footfall on each day between Monday and Wednesday from the week before.”

The main beneficiaries seem to have been some of the UK’s tourist destinations, as market towns saw a huge 25% boost after 6pm.

Ms Wehrle said: “As the scheme continues throughout August and more Brits enjoy staycations across the UK, time will tell if the government scheme provides the boost that retail destinations across the country require for business survival.”

The data from Yolt shows that while eating out might have jumped by 14% on last Monday to Wednesday, many are still saving more than usual.

Pauline van Brakel, chief product officer at Yolt, said: “It is great to see people taking advantage of the Eat Out To Help Out scheme and taking the right steps towards smart spending.

“It is also encouraging to see that, even with the temptation to spend more now, people are still remaining consistent with their efforts to save and they are seemingly trying to continue that habit going forward, particularly as we face economic uncertainty in light of Covid-19.”