LONDON (Reuters) - Britain launched a $625 million “Eat out to help out” discount scheme to boost spending at restaurants, cafes and pubs that have been crippled by COVID-19, offering half-priced meals from Monday to Wednesday to get people spending again.
For the month of August, the scheme will entitle diners to a 50% discount of up to 10 pounds per head on their meal, finance minister Rishi Sunak said.
“This moment is unique. We need to be creative,” he told parliament during a statement on the outlook for the economy.
The discount can be used unlimited times in August and will be valid Monday to Wednesday, in a bid to encourage people to dine out throughout the week and not just at the weekend.
It will not apply to alcohol.
Britain’s foodservice industry, which employed 1.8 million people before the crisis, has suffered thousands of job cuts, with layoffs announced by firms including the owners of the Caffe Ritazza and Cafe Rouge chains.
Sunak also announced a temporary cut in VAT sales tax from 20% to 5% for eat-in or hot takeaway food from restaurants, cafes and pubs.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of industry lobby group UKHospitality, welcomed the announcements.
“The measures announced today are extremely positive ... and they should give many businesses in our sector much-needed help to get going again in earnest,” she said.
But businesses in other parts of the economy said they had been left out.
“It feels like manufacturing has been forgotten... tax reliefs for innovation, encouragement for consumer spending, industry stimulus packages, where are they?” asked Rowan Crozier, chief executive officer of Brandauer, a pressing and stamping company.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said it was “bitterly disappointing” that Sunak stopped short of supporting the auto sector.
“Of Europe’s five biggest economies, Britain now stands alone in failing to provide any dedicated support for its automotive industry, a situation that will only deter future investment,” SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said.
Reporting by James Davey and David Milliken, additional reporting by Andy Bruce and Costas Pitas, editing by Stephen Addison