The Chancellor’s Eat Out to Help Out discount scheme kicks off today (Monday 3 August) with over 72,000 restaurants signed up to take part.
It’s only available in August for less than half of each week. It’s not valid on alcohol or on takeaways.
Discounts are capped at £10 per person and to spend it you have to eat at a reopened café, restaurant or pub – something many of us still don’t feel comfortable doing.
Despite all this, there’s no denying Eat Out to Help Out could save you money if you’re happy to dine in.
Here, Which? looks at how the scheme will work, where you can use it and the things you should keep in mind before you do.
What is Eat Out to Help Out?
Announced as part of a Summer Statement to help revive the flagging economy, the Eat Out to Help Out scheme immediately captured the public’s attention, but not necessarily for the right reasons.
Some mocked the scheme’s name, while others were disappointed that the rumoured £500 shopping vouchers were not announced.
Undercutting all of that, though, was a question over whether it will actually be any good. While it’s simple on one level (50% off your meal), all the conditions attached have muddied the waters.
As a reminder, here’s how it works:
The discount will be applied automatically at participating restaurants only. That’s anywhere that applied to use the scheme after it was announced.
If you’re counting, the Monday to Wednesday rule means there will be 13 days in total when you can use the scheme.
There’s no minimum spend required to get the discount and there’s no limit on the number of times you can use it each day.
In theory, you could combine Eat Out to Help Out with other discounts a restaurant offers – nothing in the scheme’s rules forbids this. However, we spoke to some establishments that said they wouldn’t allow it to be used on top of their normal promotions.
- Find out more: what the summer statement means for your money
Where can you get the Eat Out to Help Out discount?
You can find a full list of venues taking part in Eat Out to Help Out using this government tool.
Simply enter your postcode and you’ll be presented with a list of participating restaurants within a two-mile radius.
We found 100 restaurants offering the discount when we tried it out using Which?’s London office postcode.
As an offline alternative you can also keep a lookout for the official Eat Out to Help Out posters in windows. These will let you know if you can get the discount inside.
You might also see them on walls or on tables. Here’s what they look like:
Can I combine Eat Out to Help Out with other discounts?
Getting 50% off your meal (capped at £10) is one thing, but if you could ‘stack’ it with a restaurant’s other deals, you could potentially save even more.
Let’s say a restaurant usually offers two-for-one meals on Wednesdays for £10. If you could use Eat Out to Help Out on top of that, you’d get two meals for £5.
We contacted several major restaurant chains to see whether their branches would be offering Eat Out to Help Out discount, and whether you could use it with their other promotions.
Taking part? Yes, all open sites managed by pub brand Greene King will be running Eat Out to Help Out.
Valid with other offers? No, Greene King says this won’t be allowed.
Taking part? Yes, you’ll be able to get the discount at Pizza Express.
Valid with other offers? Yes, which means you can combine the chain’s voucher codes with Eat Out to Help Out discount.
Taking part? Yes, Eat Out to Help Out will be active at Wagamama.
Valid with other offers? Wagamama doesn’t offer its own discounts, so it will just be the Eat Out to Help Out scheme alone.
Taking part? Yes, all open JD Wetherspoon pubs will take part.
Valid with other offers? Yes. This is a big deal for bargain hunters, as Wetherspoons is well-known for offering low-cost meals. With the discount, you could get the popular Beyond Burger with a (non-alcoholic) drink for £3, down from £5.99. And you could get three ‘small plates’ for £5.38, down from £10.75.
Whitbread brands (Beefeater, Brewers Fayre and more)
Taking part? Yes, all 750 restaurants across Whitbread brands (including restaurants in Premier Inns) are signed up.
Valid with other offers? Yes, you can use Eat Out to Help Out alongside Whitbread’s loyalty schemes – which means you can earn loyalty points when using it.
Whitbread has also said its restaurants will ‘lift’ the £10 cap, meaning you can get 50% off your entire bill with Eat Out to Help Out no matter how much you spend.
On top of this, brands will be offering new discounts from Thursday to Sunday in August, including £15 off at Beefeater and one third off at Brewers Fayre. However, you won’t be able to combine the Eat Out to Help Out discount with third-party offers such as Tastecard.
Taking part? We didn’t have time to contact every independent pub, restaurant and café in the country (sorry), but we did ask Bira – the independent retail trade body – if the scheme was likely to catch on outside of the big brands.
Andrew Goodacre, Bira’s chief executive, said: ‘I think [indie pubs and restaurants] will sign up if they feel they have the capacity to meet demand.
‘We think this is a good idea to stimulate demand, as is the reduction in VAT, and ideally, we would like to see something similar for retail in general. We believe that we could develop a system offering discount vouchers to be redeemed in indie shops.’
- Find out more: lockdown lifting latest – what’s reopening next?
How much could you save?
A £10 per person upper limit is baked into the scheme, but there’s no limit on how many times you could use it per day.
If you ate breakfast, lunch and dinner out every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in August, you would save a maximum of £390 during the month. At a more realistic one meal out on each of the 13 eligible days, you would save a maximum of £130.
However, even though the government is urging the public to go out and spend money, it remains the case that having fewer social contacts will make you less likely to catch COVID-19, which is still present in the UK.
Pubs and restaurants can only open if they are deemed ‘COVID-19-secure’, but some have already been forced to close after patrons have become infected.
When we asked our Twitter followers if they were planning to use Eat Out to Help Out, only one in five said they would.
Question! Will you be taking advantage of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme?
— Which? Money (@WhichMoney) July 22, 2020
- Find out more: will face masks protect you in shops?
Alternative ways to save money at restaurants
If you can’t wait for August to get restaurant discounts, or if your favourite dive isn’t participating, there are other ways to get money off your food.
Here are some of your options:
You can qualify for Meerkat Meals by buying a product through Compare the Market. It grants you 2 for 1 discounts on Sunday to Thursday for an entire year at participating restaurants.
Like Eat Out to Help Out, the discount is only available when dining in.
Tastecard has capitalised on the launch of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, running adverts that compare its own discounts with the Treasury’s.
It’s available seven days a week for eating in and takeaway, offering 50% off or 2 for 1 dining at participating restaurants, without an upper discount limit.
It only loses out to Eat Out to Help Out on price. Rather than being free, it’s £4.99 a month or £34.99 a year.
However, it does come with a 30-day free trial, so you could create an account and cancel it soon after to get free discounts throughout August.
Also priced at £34.99 a year (with no monthly option), Gourmet Society offers up to 50% off at participating restaurants, seven days a week. Cinema discounts are also included.
Unofficial ‘eat out to help out’ offers
We’ve heard of at least one cafe chain that is offering half-price food and drink from Monday to Friday this month despite not technically participating in the government’s scheme. These are the cafes inside Tesco supermarkets.
Keep an eye out for other restaurants doing this, too.
- Find out more: 50 ways to save money