Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s summer statement on economic recovery throughout and after the novel coronavirus pandemic includes a restaurant discount scheme, designed to encourage diners back into restaurants — whether or not they believe it is actually safe to go.
The scheme entails a 50 percent off deal from Monday – Wednesday, with the vouchers valid up to £10 a head in restaurants, pubs, cafes, and bars in August. The scheme, like the government’s loan access initiatives, free school meals vouchers, and furlough payments, which pay 80 percent of a worker’s salary and are set to require employer contributions from August, will be subject to how swiftly and efficiently it can be introduced. While the furlough scheme, with the exception of its exclusion of service charge earnings for hospitality workers, has generally been widely praised, many restaurateurs reported difficulty with loan access and many more parents and schools have found the free school meal scheme lacking. Discounts that cannot be redeemed are no good to restaurateurs and diners alike. Businesses will claim back the discounts, with Sunak promising the money within five working days.
Restaurants and pubs have also long been hoping for a reduction in the 20 percent value added tax (VAT,) which will ease costs. The rate will now be temporarily cut to 5 percent, from next Wednesday, 15 July, for six months, for the hospitality sector.
The industry has also been incentivised to bring back staff back to work and take them out of the furlough scheme. The government has pledged to support employers with a £1,000 payment for every member of staff it returns to work and retains until January 2021. Those workers must be paid a minimum of £520 per month for the business to qualify for this grant.
There was however no extended protection for commercial tenants, including restaurants, from the chancellor. Rent has been the number one concern for restaurants throughout the crisis; despite the government’s lease forfeiture moratorium, which prevents landlords from evicting restaurants, its non-interventionist approach has long left restaurants at the mercy of landlords. The measures do not go as far as the #NationalTimeOut proposed by a number of prominent figures in the food world, but are an improvement on current plans.