Revealed – How Suffolk diners saved £3m with Eat Out to Help Out
PUBLISHED: 15:29 04 September 2020 | UPDATED: 17:00 04 September 2020
People in Suffolk took advantage of the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme more than 500,000 times in August, new figures reveal.
The data, released by HM Revenue and Customs, shows that 618 restaurants in the county signed up to the scheme, with diners receiving more than £2.8million worth of discounts.
In Suffolk Coastal, customers received more than £900,000 worth of discount – the highest in the county – with 161,000 meals claimed during the scheme.
In Ipswich, where 106 restaurants signed up, a total of £450,000 worth of discount was offered to diners, with customers offered up to £10 discount on meals.
Meanwhile, 533 businesses signed up in north Essex, with more than 500,000 people taking advantage of the price cut.
So far, a total of 4.8m meals have been claimed for across the East of England.
Only businesses with 25 or fewer outlets registered for the scheme are included in the data.
MORE: Which Suffolk restaurants are extending the Eat Out to Help Out deal?‘The government may need to provide additional support’
The Suffolk Chamber of Commerce said the scheme has increased public confidence in the county, but will only help businesses in the short term – adding the government may need to do more.
A spokesman said: “Hospitality and leisure were two of the hardest hit sectors during the Covid-19 lockdown, and the Eat Out to Help Out scheme has been a huge success in terms of building public confidence but also ensuring the hospitality sector gets an initial cash boost.
“The scheme will certainly help hospitality businesses in the short-term but the government may need to provide additional support if there is any sign of a second lockdown.
“However, one way to boost business confidence and recovery in the long-run would be reform to business rates which Suffolk Chamber of Commerce has successfully lobbied for, and we’re delighted that a review is forthcoming.”
Following the schemes success, a number of restaurants, pubs and cafes have decided to continue the discount off their own back to encourage customers to keep on coming.
How has the scheme helped Suffolk businesses?
Nick Attfield, director of properties at Adnams, described the scheme as an “adrenaline shot” for the hospitality sector, which he said helped “kick them back to life”.
He said they saw the same numbers of customers as they would usually – as it was their peak trading time – but guests were making the most out of their visits, ordering three courses or opting for pricier meals.
“We were selling lobster and prime cuts of beef from Monday to Wednesday, which would not normally happen,” said Mr Attfield. “People were upping their spend, which was hugely beneficial for us.”
He also said it gave customers a reason to come out and the confidence to return – being able to see how venues are implementing social distancing measures.
“It’s given us a phenomenal summer, and I am truly grateful, as we are heading into a tricker autumn,” he said.
Brendan Padfield, owner of the Unruly Pig in Woodbridge, said he is also extremely grateful for the government’s support and was impressed by the boost the scheme gave his business.
He has decided to run his own version of the scheme from September 14 – offering 20% off his A La Carte menu from Monday to Wednesday.
He said: “Much to our surprise we were already pretty busy before the Eat Out to Help Out scheme was introduced, and this was not in my financial forecast.
“However, the scheme made a real difference and it undoubtedly helped our business. The chancellor really has got the hospitality industry’s back and the support has been tremendous.
“I was so impressed by the boost the scheme gave to our business and I am extremely grateful.”
Mr Padfield said that following its success, he wanted to offer his own discount to help people out during these difficult times but if the government felt able to extend the Eat Out to Help Out scheme further, it would make a “big difference”.
“It would help preserve jobs, but we have got to be realistic and all of this has got to be paid for eventually,” he said. “And it will most likely be down to our grandchildren.”
He said the hospitality industry has been given a little boost, but now it is down to the businesses to continue this success.
Meanwhile, Suffolk Food Hall has chosen to extend it’s own version of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme at its cafe and gelato hut, giving diners 25% off Monday to Wednesday in September, with no £10 cap.
Ross Haddow, from the company’s sales and marketing team, said they chose to offer this to encourage people to use the cafe as the restaurant has not yet reopened.
He said the August scheme made Mondays to Wednesdays the “new weekend”.
“We certainly had a big uptake throughout August,” said Mr Haddow. “We were much busier than we would normally be at the beginning of the week, when it is usually more quiet.”
He said they were also able to give more staff members shifts at the start of the week, allowing them to bring people back from furlough.
“It helped us save as many jobs as possible,” said Mr Haddow. “We knew how busy we would be so we could plan for that and give people more hours.”
He said the scheme made people “more comfortable” to venture out and helped the business get back on its feet.
He is hopeful this will continue when the restaurant reopens in October.
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