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Half-price dinners – but what comes next?

Concern over the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, as business leaders call for more support

07 August, 2020 — By Sam Ferguson

Archway business forum chair Jan Tucker (centre) says independent businesses need more help

BUSINESS leaders have questioned what will happen after the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme closes next month, and called for more support to help save restaurants hit by a downturn in trade because of the coronavirus health crisis.

The scheme, nicknamed “Sunak’s Suppers” or “Rishi’s Dishes” after chancellor Rishi Sunak, runs throughout August and offers meal discounts on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

The government picking up half of the tab – up to £10 per person.

Scores of cafés and restaurants across Islington are taking part.

But while business groups are hopeful of a short bounce for the high street as some diners make use of the discount, calls are growing for more support.

Archway business forum chair Jan Tucker said she was worried the scheme favoured chains more than independents, who would once again struggle after the deal ended.

“The independents are the soul of the high street,” she said. “Once they’re gone, they’re gone, and they need help now.”

Christine Lovett of Angel.London said it was hard to tell if trade had just been displaced from the end of the week.

“Looking forward, our retail, hospitality, health and wellbeing and cultural sectors will require longer-term support for businesses to remain open and ensure that jobs are maintained,” she added.

Alexander Jan, chair of the Midtown Business Improvement District, suggested a Covid passport scheme to encourage businesses and office workers to come back to vacant office blocks in the south of the borough.

“This scheme is a stop gap until a vaccine appears, but it’s not a silver bullet,” he said.

“A much more proactive view is needed to encourage people back to work and protect the local and wider London economy that’s so important to the whole of the UK.”

Mr Sunak said restaurants were struggling and “it’s vital we do everything we can to help them recover”.

He added the scheme “is designed to get more customers through the door – protecting jobs by giving businesses the confidence to retain and hire staff”.

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