How will the Eat out to help out scheme work for me?

Hilary Osborne
Photograph: Kumar Sriskandan/Alamy

The Eat out to help out scheme launches across the UK on Monday and has been hailed by Rishi Sunak as a lifeline for the beleaguered hospitality industry. It will give diners 50% off food and soft drinks, with a maximum discount of £10, on certain days in August. Here is a guide to the scheme.

What’s the deal?

If you dine out on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday this month you can save up to half the price of your meal – subject to some terms and conditions. You must eat at the venue. The discount is not available on alcoholic drinks and does not apply to the service charge on the meal. It is also capped at £10 a person – so if you splash out on £50 worth of food with your partner you will only get £20 knocked off your bill.

The government has told businesses that it is expecting the offer to apply all day, and on all qualifying food and drink. The deal applies to children and there is no minimum spend. There is no limit to how many times each customer can use it. In theory, you could eat out multiple times a day and get the discount each time.

The scheme runs for 13 days in August. A family of four who chose to eat out every Monday could save up to £200.

Where can I go?

Independent eateries and the big chains can join the scheme and more than 53,000 outlets have signed up. These include casual dining chains such as Pizza Express, upmarket establishments including the Ivy, Michelin-starred venues and myriad independent cafes, bars and restaurants. Even workplace canteens can sign up.

You can find out which local businesses are offering the deals on the government website. You just put in a postcode and it shows every business that’s signed up within a five-mile radius. Many will have posters in the window too. Bear in mind that some big names are franchises, and not all branches may be taking part – this is the case with Starbucks, for instance.

Companies can sign up throughout August, so it’s worth keeping an eye out if your favourite place is not offering the deal at first.

Where can’t I go?

The discount doesn’t apply to takeaways and you won’t get it at mobile food vans. Hotel room service and catering for private functions are also excluded.

Do I need a voucher?

No. You don’t need to take a voucher or remember to turn up by a particular time to make use of the scheme. You just go along to the restaurant or cafe, and it applies the discount.

Can I use it with other discounts?

This is up to the individual firms. Pizza Express says customers can still use Tesco Clubcard vouchers, for example, but Nando’s says it won’t let you use it with another offer.

If an eatery does let you use a discount or voucher, that has to come off before the Eat out to help out reduction – so if, for example, the offer is two £10 main courses for £15, you will pay £7.50.

For deals involving alcohol – say a pub is offering a main and a glass of wine for £12.50, the normal cost of the drink has to be taken off before the discount is applied. So if that was £4.50, your 50% saving would be on the remaining £8.

What if we split the bill?

The discount is up to £10 for each person, regardless of how much the meal you eat costs, so it may make sense to split the bill after you have paid, rather than asking to be charged separately. If, for example, you have a glass of water and a £8 main course, and your friend goes for a three-course affair costing £25, the restaurant will knock £20 off the £33 total, rather than taking off £14. Obviously you will need to work out how you share the extra discount.

What else do I need to know?

Bear in mind that we are still in the middle of a pandemic and that eating out is not like it used to be. For a start, you should check that the place where you want is open – not everywhere has started up again, and those that are may have shorter operating hours than usual. Next, check if you need to book in advance. With social distancing still in place, many businesses are operating at reduced capacity and some are managing this by insisting on reservations. Some places are not taking cash, so make sure you have an alternative if that is how you usually pay.

Hospitality businesses are struggling, so if you do make a booking and then find you can’t turn up after all, let them know – they need to fill up their tables if they can.

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