Coronavirus: Eat Out to Help Out ‘really successful’ in NI

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EPA

“We have very little availability, the phone has been non-stop,” Gavin Bates of The White Horse Inn in Saintfield tells BBC News NI.

The government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme aims to encourage us to support the hospitality sector.

Hospitality Ulster has hailed week one as “really successful.”

Participating venues will deduct 50% off a bill up to £10 per head every Monday to Wednesday in August.

Figures from the Treasury show 1,512 venues in Northern Ireland have signed up. However, this number will be higher as it does not include chains that have more than 25 outlets.

“We were three times as busy as normal on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and it was brilliant to see. It brought a lot of people out and we definitely benefitted from it,” Mr Bates said.

“It has created extra shifts and hours for front of house and kitchen staff.

“It has certainly motivated people financially to get them out to try different places and it has got sales through the till.

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Casual Dinng Group

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Figures from the Treasury show 1,512 venues in Northern Ireland have signed up

“We’re evaluating this weekend to see if it has impacted our weekend sales, but it’s definitely had a positive impact on business,” he said.

Tony O’Neill, who owns Buba and Coppi in Belfast, told Radio Ulster’s Good Morning Ulster programme he has been able to take more staff back from furlough.

“We had only planned to open a few days because the Cathedral Quarter is still quiet, but this scheme has allowed us to open additional nights,” he said.

“We were sitting at about 65% of our staff back, but we now have as many as 85% and hope to open a couple of more days over the next few weeks and bring everyone back.”

Colin Neill of Hospitality Ulster told BBC News NI the scheme appears to be working.

“It has brought people out to spend money and it has been a call to action for people who may have been reluctant about venturing out.


Analysis

The popularity of this scheme was clear on Tuesday night when I met friends for dinner.

We struggled to find somewhere to fit us in on Belfast’s Ormeau Road and had to wait an hour for a table.

But will this incentive just move us away from going out at the weekend?

It is usually very difficult to get a table for dinner at my local, but on Thursday it was quieter then usual. Staff told us Monday was busy and bookings had tailed off later in the week.

If this is the case elsewhere, has the scheme just shifted our spending rather than encouraging us to go out and spend more frequently?


“It has displaced some spending, but it hasn’t replaced it and I still think it has added a significant amount of money for venues.

“This is still about breaking even and allowing businesses to bring staff back.

“I have seen some places open just for the scheme and we are talking to the Secretary of State Brandon Lewis and the Treasury about an extension,” Mr Neill told BBC News NI.

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