How to actually Eat Out to Help Out

We explain the latest government scheme and how you can practically support businesses in need

The Eat Out to Help Out scheme is launching today in the UK and will run every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday until 31 August. Offering diners a 50% discount (up to a maximum of £10 discount per diner) in restaurants and cafes across the country, the aim of the scheme is to give the hospitality industry a much-needed boost while bolstering the public’s confidence in eating out again now lockdown is mostly easing.

Businesses need to register to be a part of the scheme and the government has created a search tool to help you find participating restaurants near you. You won’t need a voucher to claim your discount, this will be automatically applied to your bill and you can return as many times as you’d like.

Alcoholic drinks won’t be included, but the discount will apply to all other food and drink, with no minimum spend required.

There are over 53,000 businesses taking part, including big-name brands such as Burger King, Starbucks, Wagamama, Zizzi and Bill’s. At a glance, this feels like it can only be a good thing for the industry. And while the scheme certainly has good intentions, when you dig beneath the surface there are some concerns.

To start with, many have spoken out about the mixed messages being sent by the government. In one breath they launch an anti-obesity strategy that includes a ban on ‘buy one get one free’ offers on unhealthy foods, in the next breath they launch Eat Out to Help Out where many restaurants on the list sell this ‘unhealthy’ food.

Responding to this concern on LBC radio, Care Minister Helen Whately said that under the healthy eating plans, large chain restaurants will have to publish calorie breakdowns so diners can make ‘informed choices’. This plan and others within the anti-obesity strategy have also been heavily criticised by eating disorder and nutrition experts.

The fact that the discount only applies if you eat in the restaurant/cafe and doesn’t apply to take-aways has also been raised as a problem. The government says this is because they want to encourage the public to dine in, but some are worried this is encouraging unnecessary gatherings.

Finally, another concern is whether or not the smaller, independent businesses will really benefit from this scheme. They can of course register to be part of it, but with well-known chain restaurants offering the same discount, there’s a worry that the public will opt for them over smaller businesses.

How to support smaller businesses

If you’re keen to support smaller businesses during this time, try the following:

  • Opt for an independent/small business taking part in the Eat Out to Help Out scheme where possible.
  • If a smaller business you know isn’t participating, suggest they do so. Or (if you’re able to) dine with them regardless.
  • If you don’t feel comfortable dining in at a restaurant and you’re happy to forego the discount, order a take-away from them instead and build your confidence slowly.
  • Spread the word about smaller businesses – leave positive reviews online and share your experience with them on social media.
  • Tip well during this time, if possible.
  • Send a thank you note/email to show your support. A few kind words of gratitude can go a long way.

Your safety and wellbeing are always a priority, so remember to honour the social distancing rules (including wearing a mask where necessary) while out, check for any local lock-down precautions in place and most of all – enjoy yourself.