Eat Out to Help Out: Businesses claimed £849m for 160 million meals

Kate Ng
·2-min read
A government scheme to offer half-price meals helped to pull down the overall cost of living, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (PA)
A government scheme to offer half-price meals helped to pull down the overall cost of living, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (PA)

Tens of thousands of businesses have claimed £849m through the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, covering more than 160 million meals, according to new figures.

Data published by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) showed nearly 50,000 restaurants and food outlets made a claim for the scheme by 30 September.

Through the scheme, venues were able to offer discounts on meals to customers to encourage people to help the hospitality industry, which has been crippled by the pandemic. 55 per cent of the claims were made by restaurants, with pubs accounting for 28 per cent of meals.

The average discount on a meal was £5.25. The scheme allowed restaurants and other places that served food to offer a 50 per cent discount on meals, with a maximum of £10 discount per person.

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, lauded the scheme as a success after it ended on 31 August and thanked the hospitality industry for “embracing it and helping drive our economic recovery”.

But research has showed that EOTHO may have contributed to the second wave of coronavirus infections in the UK, drawing criticism of the government’s eagerness to boost the economy amid the ongoing public health crisis.

A study by the University of Warwick suggested that the scheme may be responsible for eight to 17 per cent of newly detected Covid-19 clusters in August and early September.

However, the Chancellor has not ruled out a return of the scheme to stimulate the economy again after the current lockdown.

Earlier this month, he was asked if the policy would make a comeback. Mr Sunak told Sky News the government intends to “make sure that we get the economy going strongly coming out of this”.

He said: “We want to get consumers spending again and people out and about. So we’ll look at a range of things to see what the right interventions are at that time.”

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