The Eat Out to Help Out scheme championed by Chancellor Rishi Sunak came into effect on Monday the 3rd of August, providing financial aid to cash-strapped restaurant industry and enabling the public to enjoy half price meals. In our latest UK poll, a clear majority (61%) of respondents say they support the introduction of the scheme, with only 12% of respondents opposing it. This highlights the popularity of a scheme which provided 10.5 million discounted meals in its first three days.
Between 55-67% of respondents supported the scheme across the UK’s different regions, with the highest enthusiasm in London (65%) and the North West (67%). Notably, those who voted for the Conservatives (66%) and Labour (61%) in December 2019 expressed similar levels of support for the programme. Looking at different social classes, 60% of those who consider themselves working class and 63% of respondents who believe they are middle-class supported the scheme as well as 77% of respondents who consider themselves upper-class. Younger respondents aged 18-to-34 were more likely to be in favour (64-74%) compared to those above the age of 35 (54-63%). However, these figures highlight the widespread popularity of the scheme across the political spectrum, social class, and evenand age spectrum.
Even though only 38% of respondents have used the scheme thus far, 61% expressed support, suggesting that the other 23% may intend on utilising the scheme later on in the month, or that they approve of it the scheme for other people yet they personally do not feel safe going to a restaurant.
It still remains to be seen if this scheme will be able to inject enough capital to save keep many the struggling restaurants industryafloat. Among respondents who had used the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, 45% of respondents had used it once, 37% had used it twice and 17% had used it three or more times.
Users express high satisfaction, with 90% planning to use the scheme again.
Among the people who have yet to use the scheme, however, only 30% plan on using it before the month is over.
While these results may not seem particularly promising, the percentage of the public who have already used the scheme has nearly reached the proportion (43%) who stated that they intended to use the scheme on the 15th of July in our poll on the 15th July. As the scheme will continue for another two weeks, it is possible that more people will use the scheme than originally anticipated.
On the 12th of August, 43% had been to a restaurant since they opened on the 4th of July, which was higher than the 34% of respondents who had been to the pub.
In our poll conducted on the 1st of July, before establishments were allowed to reopen, 27% of respondents said they would return to a restaurant in the month of July and 25% hoped to return in August or September. By the 12th of August, 43% of respondents had already been to a restaurant suggesting that visits to restaurants will exceed the July 1st projection, and that the UK public is visiting restaurants at a greater rate than it was initially expected. .
Pub attendance (at 34% so far) has already exceeded the expectations that respondents had on the 1st of July when 16% expected to return during the month of July and 15% by August or September.
Among individuals who are yet to go to a restaurant, only 26% anticipate that it will be in August that they visit a restaurant again for the first time since the start of the pandemic, suggesting that the Eat Out to Help Out scheme may not encourage as many more first-time visitors than it already has. However, the encouraging figures on restaurant and pub attendance in July and August suggest that the scheme might have a greater uptake than respondents currently expect.
This is in stark contrast to the people who have been to a restaurant already, 78% of which intend to go back to a restaurant again this month.
It appears that the biggest barrier to returning to restaurants may be safety concerns. We found that the plurality of respondents (46%) still feel unsafe eating at a restaurant or drinking at a pub inside.
On the other hand, the majority of respondents (56%) feel safe eating at a restaurant or drinking at a pub outside. However, 34% still feel unsafe doing so.
Upgraded safety procedures such as staff wearing masks or plastic screens between tables could enable customers to feel comfortable in returning to restaurants. Indeed, in our London poll conducted on the 5th to the 7th of August, we found that a majority (53%) of respondents would be more likely to visit a restaurant or pub if the staff wore masks to cover their mouth and nose.
Even among respondents in London who initially felt unsafe eating at a bar or restaurant inside, 50% would be more likely to visit if the staff wore masks to cover their mouth and nose, suggesting that such safety measures could be the best way for restaurants to build back customer confidence across the country..
The Eat Out to Help Out scheme has garnered significant levels of approval across the UK as well as shoring up support for Chancellor Sunak. Nevertheless, the long-term impact of the scheme on the struggling restaurant industry remains to be seen, and it is clear that restaurants will need to convince wary customers that eating out is safe in order to survive. Redfield & Wilton Strategies will be continuing to monitor the public’s attitude towards the hospitality industry throughout the next several months.