The 3rd August marked the start of the UK Government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme – just another economic driven decision made in the hope to boost the chances of a V-Shaped Recovery post this recession. The scheme, which in effect halves the bill, can be found in hundreds of restaurants and will save customers up to £10 every Monday to Wednesday. Rishi Sunak, the current UK chancellor, claims that the scheme will get more people spending money in restaurants and ultimately save a sector which has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic.
However, in such an unprecedented time, do we really know or understand all of the effects? It has been established that 72,000 food places are participating, with a survey conducted by UKHospitality revealing that 84% of business are embracing the scheme. To date the scheme has increased bookings in many of the restaurants participating. Will Beckett, the co-founder of Hawksmoor, told the BBC that six of his restaurants have received 15,000 bookings for the 13 days which the scheme runs for within the first week of August! This highlights the sheer demand to eat out, and definitely shows that the scheme has positively persuaded people to eat out. However, with the rush to implement the scheme during such an unprecedented time, it is argued that there are other effects which have not been considered.
On the forefront of many people’s mind is the feared spread of Coronavirus. A survey from the office for national statistic highlighted that just 52% of people would feel comfortable going out to eat. This shows that almost half of the country would be apprehensive to take advantage of the scheme, suggesting that it has not made as much as an impact as first thought and could instead increase the likelihood of a second wave. It must be considered whether this move has gone as far to increase the risk of restaurants later failing. It can also be argued that the ‘Eat out to Help out’ Scheme, contradicts other government schemes/policies; therefore, providing an image of the government which is divided and unstable. There is no denying that such times are unprecedented, however has the effect damaged government reputation rather than rebuild the economy? The scheme also arguably encourages people to eat intrinsically less healthy meals.
Meanwhile the Government announces a new set of policies designed to tackle obesity. With restaurant chains such as Burger King and McDonald’s participating, there seems little use in advocating for less fast food advertisement. As a result, the scheme has essentially ridiculed other policies, damaging an already fragile reputation. In addition, and perhaps most importantly it is questioned whether we will ever know the real effect. It is near on impossible to see just how successful, if at all, the scheme has been. For example, the BBC has reported that a plethora of businesses are noticing fewer customers on their usual busy days – i.e. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Therefore, one must question if the scheme has simply changed the day people were planning to go out to eat anyway.
This would drastically undermine the effect of the scheme – seeing as these people were prepared to eat out anyway. As a result, the true effect of the scheme will be incredibly hard to determine. Ultimately, there are many outcomes to every action, and during such an unprecedented time it is no surprise the Government were to act fast on their feet. It must however be questioned if this scheme is simply delaying the result of irreversible damage, to which we will not find out for a few months to come. Furthermore, it is worth wondering whether likely schemes will be put in place to benefit other struggling sectors, such as the entertainment sector, which yet sees Theatres or Cinemas to reopen.
By Hope Turner – University of Kent
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