Why 'Monday is the new Saturday' for Sheffield’s pubs, cafés and restaurants as diners Eat Out to Help Out

Monday is 'the new Saturday' for pubs, cafés and restaurants – or at least it is while the Eat Out to Help Out scheme is around, says Kane Yeardley.

By Richard Blackledge
Thursday, 13th August 2020, 11:47 am
Updated Friday, 14th August 2020, 4:17 pm

The managing director of True North Brew Co, which operates 12 venues in Sheffield and beyond, has seen custom rise noticeably at the start of the week since the Government's initiative giving diners 50 per cent off the cost of food and soft drinks on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays began on August 3.

"It's been very good," says Kane, whose sites include The Broadfield on Abbeydale Road, The Riverside at Kelham Island and city centre bar The Forum. "Generally, trade is down – apart from the effect of Eat Out to Help Out."

The scheme, intended to boost the struggling hospitality sector in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown, was used more than 10.5 million times in its first week according to HMRC, which is processing claims to reimburse businesses. Estimates put the average claim at close to £5, making the cost of the initiative around £50 million so far – the Government has set aside £500 million to pay for the policy until August 31, and more than 83,000 places have signed up nationally, including independents and major chains.

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The Riverside pub at Kelham Island. Picture: Nik Farah.

Crucially, diners do not have to do anything to get their discount, which is capped at £10 per person. If a venue is registered, the money will be deducted from their bill if meals are consumed on the premises.

The full benefit for True North, Kane says, is 'difficult to judge' so far because of the weather – the first two August weekends were blessed with high temperatures – and the unique circumstances of 2020.

"We can't compare year on year," he explains. "People can't go to festivals and they're not going away, so the last place you can find to do something is go to the pub. But on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we've basically been fully booked on those nights. It's difficult to do a realistic comparison because we've got these extreme situations. Let's see what happens after September."

Either way, the scheme seems to have encouraged wary customers to venture out again after the initial peak of the pandemic.

Kane Yeardley, of True North Brew Co. Picture: Dean Atkins.

"It's definitely influenced people who might have been a bit unsure or uncomfortable about coming back into pubs," says Kane. "It's helped them to realise that some of us are making a big effort with one-way systems, one-metre spacing – they can see that people in our industry are keeping places really clean and keeping the standards good."

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Meanwhile, at Sheffield's Moor Market, Bruce Payne credits Eat Out to Help Out with an increase in demand for fish and chips from his Market Chippy shop in the building's food court.

"We're doing well with it, it's made a massive difference," says Bruce, who was eligible as the food court has communal seating allowing diners to 'eat in'. "On Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays we're busy."

Bruce Payne at The Market Chippy in Sheffield. Picture: Dean Atkins.

Some of his neighbours, however, didn't sign up, which he thinks is 'a shame'. "Some said it was too complicated to do. It's not, but they're too set in their ways."

A notable exception is the Lemongrass Thai Street Food stall, Bruce says, where a nine-strong queue had gathered at lunchtime on Wednesday. "They're storming," he adds.

The policy has spurred customers on to spend more than they might have done otherwise, Bruce believes.

"We're noticing what they're buying. Instead of having a small fish they will have a bigger one because it's half price. They're spending more, without a doubt. A few of the other traders commented 'We've noticed you've had big queues today'. All I'd say to them is 'Get signed up to it' - you still can. I'm hoping some of the others will jump on this bandwagon but I'm not overly confident."

He has already put in his first claim with HMRC - "It's not like we're not going to get the money, you just have to wait a week for it," he says - and would 'absolutely love' for the policy to be extended.

"Even though we've had massive government help with a £10,000 grant and so on, we've still got staff on furlough we can't afford to bring back because Thursday, Friday and Saturday drops back down to normal," says Bruce. "The footfall in the market I would say is down to about 30 per cent of what it was, everybody is struggling. So if they turned round and said Eat Out to Help Out has worked well and they're extending it for another month, I wouldn't hesitate to sign up. And I'd hope even more businesses would."

Kane takes a similar view.

"It should be extended for three months," says True North’s boss. "This is just industry hearsay, but I've heard that it's been cheaper for the government for us to bring all these staff back off furlough and to give us the money back on these meals. It's costing them less to support us this way. A lot of us are doing the right thing - we're cleaning, we've got sanitisers, we've done all the correct spacing and one-way systems. This gives people a reason to come back and feel secure in pubs."

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