The value of claims made by restaurants and cafes participating in the Eat Out to Help Out scheme totalled £522m, the government has revealed.
By midnight on 31 August, when the scheme came to an end, more than 100 million meals were eaten by diners, with the 84,700 establishments signed up to the scheme making 130,000 claims.
These numbers are likely to grow, with restaurants having until the end of September to claim back the 50% government-funded discount applied to bills.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the scheme’s popularity had helped protect the livelihoods of the 1.8 million people working in the hospitality sector and drive the nation’s economic recovery from coronavirus.
He said: “From the get-go our mission has been to protect jobs, and to do this we needed to be creative, brave and try things that no government has ever done before.
“Today’s figures continue to show Eat Out to Help Out has been a success. I want to thank everyone, from restaurant owners to waiters, chefs and diners, for embracing it and helping drive our economic recovery.”
According to OpenTable data, restaurant bookings increased by an average of 53% on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout the whole of August, compared to the same days in 2019.
In July 2020, restaurant bookings were down 54% on average from Mondays to Wednesdays compared to July 2019.
On 31 August – the final day of the scheme – bookings were up 216% compared to the equivalent day in 2019.
And early signs show that despite ending, the scheme has continued to boost demand, with a 2% rise in restaurant bookings on Tuesday 1 September compared to the equivalent day in 2019, according to OpenTable.
There had been an upward trend in the scheme’s popularity since it launched, with 10.5 million meals claimed for in total in the first week, 35 million meals in the second, 64 million in the third and over 100 million by 31 August.
The scheme was used across the entire UK, with more than six million meals claimed for in Scotland, over two million in both Wales and Northern Ireland and over 51 million meals claimed for in England by 27 August.