British high streets received a boost from the launch of the government-backed discount dining scheme on Monday, according to industry figures, as restaurants also reported a rise in interest from customers.
Data on shopper visits showed that by 3pm on Monday the number of people hitting the high street was up nearly 30% on the same day last week, while across all destination including retail parks and shopping centres the rise was 19%. Although the numbers from the retail specialist Springboard capture all shopping outlets, they will have covered many of the 72,000 cafes, pubs and restaurants that have signed up to the half-price “eat out to help out” scheme.
Springboard’s insights director, Diane Wehrle, said much of the uplift was likely to be a result of better weather, with last Monday’s rain clouds replaced with sunshine across much of the country. “It is more realistic to assume that if the rain hadn’t occurred, footfall in all UK destinations would have been around 5% higher than last Monday,” she said.
But chains and independent restaurants reported enthusiasm for the scheme, which gives diners 50% off food and soft drinks up to a maximum discount of £10 per head, with the initiative running throughout August on every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Restaurant owners said bookings were up on last week and in some cases higher than usual for August. A spokeswoman for the Mitchells & Butlers group, whose chains include Toby Carvery, Harvester, Miller & Carter Steakhouse and Sizzling Pub, said advance bookings were “promising” across its pubs, bars and restaurants.
Mark Selby, a co-founder of the Mexican food chain Wahaca, said reservations had not returned to pre-crisis levels but the restaurant had seen a “marked increase” in bookings. “Monday has seen decent numbers of walk-in customers at our restaurants that have reopened so far,” he said.
In Aberdeenshire, the Banchory Lodge restaurant said bookings were three times higher than on a typical August day. At lunch on Monday it had 63 people booked, compared with an average of 20, and it was expecting similar numbers for dinner. Tuesday was set to be even busier, with more bookings for the evening.
Carol Fowler, director of Banchory Lodge, said the scheme was proving to be a vital part of August’s business. “We’re seeing new people making bookings so it’s been a good way of marketing the business differently,” she said.
Emilia’s Crafted Pizza, which has two branches in London, has had a “massive spike” in reservations, with bookings for this Monday to Wednesday treble last week’s figures. However, the owner Andrew MacLeod said he thought business would slow down later in the week. “We believe that this Thursday will be the new quiet Monday, and whole weekends look like they’re going to be quieter,” he said.