Portsmouth diners claim more than £1m through the Eat Out To Help Out scheme
HUNGRY residents across Portsmouth and the surrounding region claimed discounts worth £1.4 million through the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme – with restaurants praising the scheme.
In July, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that diners would get 50 per cent off – with a maximum discount of up to £10 per person - on meals eaten in restaurants, pubs and cafes from Monday to Wednesday during August.
Restaurants only charged half-price for meals, and then claimed the other half back from the government.
A total of 342 restaurants across Portsmouth, Gosport, Fareham, and Havant joined the scheme – but Portsmouth diners proved to be the hungriest for a bargain.
The Portsmouth South constituency had 150 restaurants take part, with £742,000 claimed through 124,000 discounted meals.
And in Portsmouth North, 52 restaurants served 51,000 discount meals, saving diners £334,000.
Meanwhile, the 140 restaurants across Gosport, Fareham, and Havant prepared 90,000 discounted meals, saving customers £470,000.
For restaurants further away from the entertainment hot-spots of Southsea, the scheme presented challenges as well as benefits, according to Ayman Aziz, the manager of Rancho Steak House in West Street, Fareham.
He said: ‘It was suddenly thrown out and we didn’t know what to expect – especially being in Fareham.
‘It’s not as well visited as other places, and we saw a massive turnaround in business.
‘We don’t normally need that many members of staff on those dates, so we took on more people – it’s been quite difficult.’
Not all the costs of the meals have been claimed back from the government yet, so the total number will rise.
In central Portsmouth, the scheme had helped create new regular customers, according to Rob White, manager of 7 Bone Burger, in Guildhall Walk.
He said: ‘We were always full at 400 covers, Monday to Wednesday – it became like a second weekend.
‘Even after the scheme ended, it’s helped out the business – we’ve seen customers come back and say the food was worth it at full price.
‘It gave people the opportunity to try us.
‘The scheme’s worked very well.’
Further afield, the Meon Valley area had 96 restaurants take part, with diners saving £446,000 across 72,000 discounted meals, while East Hampshire saw 80 restaurants serve 39,000 discount meals, costing the government £278,000.
Across the UK more than 100 million meals have been claimed for so far, with businesses having until September 30 to make a claim.
Keep up to date with the latest coronavirus news in Portsmouth with our Coronavirus Updates Facebook group.