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Eat Out to Help Out and other restaurant discount schemes – what’s best for small businesses?

4-minute read

Anna Delves

15 July 2020

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Updated on 18 August

The government recently announced its Eat Out to Help Out scheme, aimed at helping restaurants and eateries recover as we ease out of lockdown.

We’ve covered what the scheme is, how to get involved, and other discount schemes independent restaurants may want to get involved in to promote their business and bring customers back through the second half of the year.

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What is the Eat Out to Help Out scheme?

Eat Out to Help Out is a government initiative where diners can get 50 per cent off their meals, with the government footing the bill for the second half of the cost.

There is a cap of £10 for each person, but it applies to all food and soft drinks orders that are eaten “on premises” – it doesn’t extend to food that's taken away.

Is my business eligible for Eat out to Help Out?

According to the government’s website, businesses that may be eligible for the scheme are “those in which food is sold for immediate on-premises consumption.” This could include:

  • restaurants
  • cafés
  • pubs that serve food
  • hotel restaurants
  • restaurants and cafes within tourist attractions, holiday sites and leisure facilities
  • dining rooms within members’ clubs
  • workplace and school canteens

If it’s not clear whether or not your business could be included in the scheme, have a look at the government’s specific examples of what is and isn’t eligible.

When does it come into effect and how long will it last?

The scheme runs on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays during August 2020, starting on 3 August and ending on 31 August.

There's no usage limit within the timeframe it’s active, meaning you could use it multiple times a day on Mondays through Wednesdays during August.

How do I take part in the scheme?

You’ll need to register your business on the government’s website if you want to take part.

To register, you'll need:

  • the Government Gateway ID and password for your business (if you don’t have one, you can create one when you register)
  • the name and address of each establishment you’re registering, unless you're registering more than 25
  • the UK bank account number and sort code for your business – this must be an account where a BACS payment can be accepted
  • the address on your bank account for the business (this is the address on your bank statements)

You may also need your:

  • VAT registration number (if applicable)
  • employer PAYE scheme reference number (if applicable)
  • Corporation Tax or Self Assessment unique taxpayer reference

Once you register, you’ll have to pass the fraud and compliance checks the government run before you’ll be accepted into the scheme.

How will I get paid?

To get the money back from the government, you'll need to keep a record of your sales. This includes the:

  • total number of people who've used the scheme in your establishment
  • total value of transactions under the scheme
  • total amount of discounts you’ve given

If you've registered to take part in scheme, you can claim the money back via the government's website.

There are some important details that you should familiarise yourself with before starting the claims process:

  • you must wait seven days from registration to make your first claim – HMRC will pay eligible claims within five working days
  • you can submit claims on a weekly basis
  • you’ll still need to pay VAT based on the full amount of your customers’ bills
  • any money you receive through the scheme will be treated as taxable income
  • you'll be able to make five claims in total before the scheme closes on 30 September – after that, you won't be able to make any further claims

Remember to check over your claims carefully before submitting them – the government has said that there will be delays in payment if your claim is incorrect.

Other restaurant schemes

As the Eat Out to Help Out scheme is only running for one month, you may want to consider other discount schemes.

Of course, unlike Eat Out to Help Out, you won’t be able to claim back the discount costs, but it may be worth it to encourage diners to visit as we move into autumn.

Three of the main dining discount schemes in the UK are Tastecard, Hi Life Diners, and The Gourmet Society.

Tastecard describe themselves as “the UK’s largest dining club”. Restaurants who sign up to participate offer two-for-one meals, or 50 per cent off.

As well as an incentive to visit your restaurant, Tastecard have a lot of brand loyalty, claiming that 78 per cent of their 2.5 million members only eat at restaurants that are registered with Tastecard.

Hi Life Diners works slightly differently, with members getting 20 per cent off their bill, but they’re able to use the card at any time they like – including weekends.

The Gourmet Society is closer to Tastecard, offering two-for-one meals, 50 per cent off the food bill, or 25 per cent of the total bill. This gives a bit more flexibility for businesses that are more focused on drinks than they are on food.

All of the above are part of The Dining Club Group, which offers a variety of packages for food and drinks businesses. Tastecard, for example, is free to join, but some of the other options have a price attached.

Restaurant delivery services

Another way to engage diners is to start offering takeaways. While ordering in will have been a staple of lockdown for some, others will have been more cautious, or won’t have had the disposable income. So if you’re not already offering takeaways, now is a good time to consider it.

If you’re not able to provide the delivery service yourself, you can sign up with the likes of Deliveroo, Uber Eats, or Just Eat and they will do the delivery for you, for a cut of the bill.

While it will cost you to get your business onto these platforms, you’ll be able to reach a wider audience than you otherwise would – especially with many still cautious about eating out.

Will you be using Eat Out to Help Out? Got another plan to bring customers in? Tell us all about it in the comments.

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We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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