For just over two weeks, pubs, bars, cafés and restaurants have been able to reopen their doors for the first time since March.
It came as a relief to many businesses that were forced to close and furlough staff in lockdown, although some remained skeptical that July 4 would see the demand that so many were anticipating.
It is no secret that COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the UK economy and in response to that the nation has witnessed first-of-their-kind government schemes and policies aimed at kickstarting the economy.
One of those is encouraging the public to spend money in restaurants and cafés again, in a bid to rescue the hospitality industry.
On Wednesday (July 8), chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak announced the Eat Out to Help Out scheme in which diners will receive 50% off, up to £10 per head, their food and non-alcoholic drinks in August.
The scheme will run all day every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from August 3 to 31 for diners eating or drinking at the registered premises. Participating establishments will be fully reimbursed for the 50% discount.
There will be no limit to the number of times customers can use the offer, but alcohol and service charges will be excluded.
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Fulvio Bertani, owner of Italian restaurant Olivo, in Guildford, said he will be signing up to the scheme.
Mr Bertani, 54, said: “I think it will be a very good idea, it might help the local economy to get a little boost. We are planning to register.”
Olivo closed for March, April and May but offered a takeaway service in June. In July the business welcomed customers back for the dine-in experience.
Mr Bertani said: “It is obviously not as busy as it used to be but we are having a steady flow of customers who are coming back; slowly the local community is coming back.
“We take all the precautions, we have a very big restaurant with lots of space for social distancing. So we have lots of measures in place to make customers feel safe. It is a good organisation.”
Mr Bertani owns the restaurant, which has been running since 1997, with his wife Nicky.
On the timing of the scheme, Mr Bertani said August is usually a busy month for Olivo due to its large outdoor seating area.
He added: “We are happy to be back in business but nobody holds a crystal ball for the future. It is nice to be open and back on our feet, and we will see what the future holds.
“It is a very interesting, unusual time. It is about being consistent, providing a good product, food and service; a reliability.”
Is my business eligible?
Eligible businesses are those that sell food for immediate on-premises consumption.
The government says this includes:
- Pubs that serve food;
- Hotel restaurants;
- Restaurants and cafés within tourist attractions, holiday sites and leisure facilities;
- Dining rooms within members’ clubs;
- Workplace and school canteens.
How do I sign up?
On Monday (July 13) a page was launched on the government’s website where businesses are now able to sign up to the scheme.
Eligible businesses can register here, and afterwards will receive a reference number; this number will be needed when claiming back the money from the government.
Promotional materials have been made available to download for participating businesses and a list of registered establishments will also be made publicly available, the government says, but this has not yet been released.
How am I reimbursed?
Each business can claim back the money from August 7, or seven days after signing up to the scheme, and the claims will be able to be submitted on a weekly basis. The government says it will reimburse the businesses within five working days.
Councillor Eber Kington, chairman of Epsom and Ewell Borough Council’s strategy and resources committee, said: ” I am pleased to see the government taking this practical and pragmatic approach to supporting the recovery of our vibrant hospitality sector.
“Over the past two weeks, I have been heartened to see the thorough way our food and drink businesses have been preparing for their reopening, significantly contributing to safe and COVID-19 secure high streets and retail areas.
” This borough is home to many outstanding eateries, showcasing international and local cuisine. As soon as details are fully announced, I would encourage every eligible business to register so that they can benefit from the additional support the scheme will bring.
“We will also be highlighting the initiative in our messages to residents so that they can take advantage of the scheme whilst supporting our local food and drink businesses.”
Experience Guildford plans on releasing a list of the town’s participating premises at the earliest possible opportunity.
CEO of Experience Guildford, Amanda Masters, said: ” We fully support any of our restaurants who get involved in the Eat Out To Help Out scheme.
“Over the next few days, we will ascertain which of our businesses will take the initiative on and promote them to the widest possible audience. I think some people may be more inclined to try eating out for the first time since before the pandemic if they feel it might be less busy at the beginning of the week than at a weekend.”