Ian Payne 4am - 7am
Eat Out to Help Out: 35 million take advantage of Rishi Sunak's scheme
18 August 2020, 17:33
Over 35 million half-price meals have been enjoyed by customers taking advantage of Rishi Sunak's Eat Out to Help Out scheme.
The Treasury said that millions of people have dined out in the first two weeks of the scheme, and claims from restaurants are streaming in.
Sunak's idea to get more people out and about and kick-start the UK economy meant that restaurants that sign up can offer half-price meals on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout August.
The government - which reimburses them for the money deducted - has been landed with a £180 million bill from the restaurants so far.
Over 85,000 restaurants have signed up to the government-backed scheme.
Restaurants take off 50 per cent from the bill, up to £10, and then claim the money back from the Government.
Around 48,000 different claims have so far been made for money back, the Treasury said.
Restaurant chains such as Wagamama submit claims for every site they operate, and many sites will already have submitted more than one claim.
More claims for the first two weeks of the scheme are therefore likely to trickle in.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said: "Today's figures show that Britain is eating out to help out, with at least 35 million meals served up in the first two weeks alone, that is equivalent to over half of the UK taking part and supporting local jobs in the hospitality sector.
"To build back better we must protect as many jobs as possible, that is why I am urging all registered businesses to make the most of this by claiming back today - it's free, simple and pays out within 5 working days."
The Treasury urged people to enjoy the scheme "as part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle."
Around 8 per cent of the country's workforce, or 2.4 million people, work in the hospitality, accommodation and attractions sector, which was badly hit during lockdown.
About 80 per cent of hospitality firms stopped trading in April, and 1.4 workers from the sector were furloughed.
Stephen Wall, the co-founder of restaurant chain Pho, said: "The Eat Out to Help Out scheme has really been amazing.
"It's so nice to see our restaurants full of happy staff and customers again.
"It has certainly benefited our early week figures and seems to have encouraged the British public to dine out safely, as our restaurants are filling up and staying busy throughout the weekend, too."