Only a quarter of eligible food outlets have signed up for ‘Eat out to help out’ scheme


Only a quarter of the restaurants, cafes and pubs eligible to sign up for the government’s ‘eat out to help out’ scheme have done so, with less than two weeks to go before diners can get their hands on the half-price meals.

The coffee retailer Costa today became the latest major chain to announce it had registered with the scheme – which starts in August – joining others including Burger King, McDonald’s, Harvester, Nando’s, Pizza Hut and JD Wetherspoon.

Figures from HMRC show that of an estimated 130,000 eligible restaurants, bars and cafes, just 32,362 have signed up since registration opened on 13 July.

Eat out to help out, which was unveiled by the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, earlier this month, offers diners 50% off meals when eating in from Monday to Wednesday throughout August. The discount is capped at £10 per head.

Discounts will be on food and non-alcoholic drinks, and apply to both adults and children.

The scheme is designed to boost the struggling £130bn hospitality industry and support 1.8 million jobs. Registration began last week and outlets can sign up at any time until the last day of the scheme.

Starbucks has not yet signed up while other businesses – including “wet-led” pubs, which do not offer food, and smaller outlets, which could struggle to serve customers safely – are still weighing up whether it makes business sense for them to join.

To help prospective diners identify participating restaurants, the government has designed posters to display in windows, on walls and on restaurant tables. A website is expected to launch in the next few days to allow diners to search for local restaurants before it goes live on 3 August.

Customers do not need a voucher, as participating establishments will apply the discount to their bill. Businesses will reclaim the discounted amount through an online service, supported by HMRC. Claims can be made on a weekly basis and will be paid into bank accounts within five working days.

An HMRC spokesperson said: “Although restaurants and establishments can register now for the scheme, some may choose not to register until the scheme is launched to the public. Businesses are working hard to ensure their premises are Covid-safe and have plenty of time to sign up. HMRC anticipate a high level of take-up but respect that some restaurants may not choose to take part.”