Eat Out to Help Out: Who is taking part, how does it work and when do meal discounts apply?
The UK’s hospitality sector has been badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic, since lockdown forced pubs, cafés and restaurants to close and the public health emergency threatened consumer confidence.
So in a bid to generate more trade and encourage customers to go out now that restrictions have been relaxed, the Government is launching ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ – a scheme offering large discounts for diners on selected days throughout August.
"It will incentivise customers to eat in your restaurant or other eating establishment by giving them a discount which you can then claim back from the Government," the official advice says.
“The scheme will drum up custom on quieter days of the week and means you can build your business back up.”
When does it start and finish?
Eat Out to Help Out begins on Monday, August 3. Diners can take advantage of a half-price discount on food and non-alcoholic drinks at participating establishments up to a maximum of £10 off per person, inclusive of VAT, every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday until August 31. Food and drink must be consumed on the premises, not taken away, and the offer does not apply to alcoholic drinks or service charges.
Do I need to bring anything?
No. Diners do not need a voucher or pass to use the scheme, and they can claim money off while using other discounts. There is no minimum spend, and all diners in a group of any size are eligible.
Who is taking part?
Restaurants, cafés, bars, pubs, canteens and food halls can all participate, and many have signed up to do so. The Government website – https://www.tax.service.gov.uk/eat-out-to-help-out/find-a-restaurant/ – has a list of registered places that people can narrow down by entering their postcode.
Which businesses can claim?
Those intending to claim must sell food and drink for immediate consumption on the premises. This includes, for instance, a venue with an outdoor seating area, or a trader that shares a food court at an indoor market, but not a takeaway van with tables and chairs set out on the pavement. Meals cannot be part of a ‘wider service’ either – a breakfast thrown in with a hotel stay, for example, would not meet the criteria. Claimants must have been registered as a food business with ‘the relevant local authority’ on or before July 7. Businesses cannot ask an agent to claim on their behalf as such a scheme ‘would have taken much longer to deliver', the Government says.
How do traders register and when can they claim?
Businesses can sign up on the Government website. Claims can be made seven days from the date of registration, August 7 at the earliest. They will need to have kept records for each day they have used Eat Out to Help Out, detailing the number of diners who have used the scheme and the total amount of discount given.
Can businesses alter the terms?
No. The Government says: “When you register for the scheme, it is expected that you will offer it during the whole of your opening hours on all the eligible days that you are open. You cannot change the terms of the scheme, the discount you offer must be 50 per cent.”
When will businesses get paid back?
Traders get a claim reference number – HMRC will run checks, then pay the money into the business’ bank account by BACS within five working days.
Do venues still have to pay tax?
Yes – businesses will need to pay VAT, based on the full amount of the customer's bill before the Eat Out to Help Out discount is applied.