Eat out to help out is set to end on the 31st of August and as 85,000 venues have taken part so far the question remains; Has it worked to boost the hospitality industry as promised?
If your bar, pub, or restaurant has taken part you probably know better than anyone if it's helped your business but in the grander scheme of things, it has been a success. Venues across the UK have seen an increase of customers by 27% through Monday to Wednesday which is when the 50% discount was available resulting in 35 million discounted meals and a rise in tips by a staggering 125%.
However, there are still many who haven’t claimed back on meals meaning these figures are only expected to rise but that doesn't mean businesses haven't run into their fair share of obstacles running this government support scheme.
With a surge in customers and more meals being ordered than even before the lockdown it’s left a strain on venues that are running with limited staff capacity due to social distancing guidelines. Many have felt like they are working overtime to maintain a short waiting time and a positive customer experience which isn’t always possible especially if you run a small venue with limited space.
Which makes abiding by regulations even more difficult as more time is spent making sure customers are in and out the doors quickly to not leave people behind closed doors. Luckily with venues getting permits for outdoor seating this hasn’t been too big of an issue but has meant staff need to work even harder to meet demand.
A good way to decrease the strain on staff is to provide them with the right tools to do their job efficiently, luckily hopsy covers all your compliance obligations and daily tasks in one easy to use platform so no one feels like they have an impossible mountain of work to climb. Sign up now to hopsy and see the benefit for yourself.
Even though the majority of venues across the country have made use of the government scheme it doesn't cover everyone. Wet-led and community pubs primarily serving alcohol do not qualify to take part which has left these mostly private owned businesses left out of another government support scheme, making it even harder to keep doors open and compete with venues that are making use of the 50% discount. This has lead organisations like ‘Campaign For Pubs’ to step in and be the voices of these businesses who don't fall under government support schemes.
In short, the answer is no, Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed in an interview with Channel 5 news when being asked if the scheme will be extended, saying: “That's not the plan, the idea of this was to try and encourage people to get out”. He Continued “The reason these things are successful is that they're limited”.
However many pubs and restaurants disagree and are calling for the scheme to be extended till the end of September as it’s been an integral part of recovery for a large portion of the hospitality industry. It has provided the means to stay competitive for smaller businesses that have been hit the hardest by the lockdown and with it coming to an end many worries it’s going to turn customers away as people start to expect cheaper prices for meals.
This has led to some, mostly larger, organisations pledging to extend discounts to remain competitive and keep customers coming through the doors despite not being reimbursed by the government.
Start a weekly promotion - On quieter days it might be worth running a special offer, a 2 for 1 offer or a free drink with a larger meal.
Connect with other local businesses - There's strength in numbers, working with other owners can help you reach more people and find new customers, connect with them on Facebook, set up some offers or a pub crawl and create a local community, Facebook pub owner support groups might be a good way to start.
Social media promotion - Everyone on social media these days, putting up some posts of some good looking food, a happy regular (with permission of course!) or even running an ad or two promoting your business can be a good way to let people know about your business.
You can see some more useful tips by taking a look at the 5 must-have tools for restaurant management
To claim back you had to have kept a record of all discounted meals alongside other food and drinks sales for HRMC which also might ask for additional information relating to the scheme. You can keep all ‘Eat out to help out’ records alongside all your other business records. Unfortunately VAT is not affected by the discount, so you will be expected to pay the full amount required from your customer's bills unless you are taking part in other government support schemes.
You can make this process simpler by moving your operations to hopsy for all your business management and compliance which keeps a record of all aspects of your business.
You can [get started by signing up to Hopsy here.