Food delivery giant Deliveroo is urging for a return of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme once the hospitality sector is allowed to open its doors, in a letter to the prime minister that has also been signed by 330 other restaurants.
The letter, signed by the likes of itsu, Pizza Hut and Shake Shack (SHAK) among others, said the scheme had been crucial in allowing restaurants to survive last year.
“The boost the scheme provided not only helped protect restaurants from closure but also showed customers the work we have done to make sure they are safe and can get back to enjoying great food. We encourage the Government to consider a rerun of this innovative scheme when it is safe to do so,” the letter said.
The month-long scheme was launched as part of chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Plan for Jobs to kickstart the UK economy after the pandemic forced businesses to close during lockdowns. The government offered to cover up to 50% from customers’ bills, with firms able to reclaim the government’s payment through a HMRC portal.
Around 84,000 restaurants signed up to the scheme, which offered a maximum discount of £10 ($14) per customer on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout August.
However, the scheme attracted some controversy. A study showed it boosted spending at restaurants, cafes and pubs over the summer but also helped spread the coronavirus and contributed to a second wave of infections.
It was also reported that restaurants offering discounts via the scheme made claims of £849m by 30 September. This far surpassed the £500m the government had budgeted for the programme.
Meanwhile the letter pointed out the state of the hospitality sector: “Sadly, the turning of the calendar year has not affected the course of the virus” and said the restaurant businesses is under immense financial pressure.
Aside from the eat out scheme, it urged the government to extend the VAT reduction on restaurant food until at least the end of 2021, extend business rates relief for the retail and restaurant sectors for a further financial year and maintain the furlough scheme “as long as is necessary.”
It also asked the government to support businesses to manage their rental arrears and roll out small-site rapid testing and get key workers vaccinated, in supermarkets, restaurants and the food delivery sector as part of the second phase of vaccine rollout.
In terms of longer-term policies, the letter said the government should “invest in the renewal and reimagining of the local high street.”
Deliveroo CEO Will Shu, noted that "restaurants are at the heart of our high streets and local communities and we want to play our part to help them reopen their doors when the economy opens up again.
"That is why we are calling on the Government to implement this package of measures, which will be an important lifeline for small independents and high street family favourites."
Deliveroo launched a new programme last month to provide hundreds of thousands of free meals to staff and volunteers at COVID-19 vaccine sites across the UK.
And its latest fundraising round valued the takeaway firm at more than £5.1bn.
The company, which is readying for a bumper stock market listing, raised $180m from its investors, including from minority stakeholder Amazon (AMZN). The firm had already raised $1.5bn from investors.
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