Local businesses claimed 186,000 Eat Out meal deals

Local businesses claimed 186,000 Eat Out meal deals

9 September 2020

BUSINESSES across South Down which took part in the Eat Out to Help Out scheme claimed for 186,000 discounted meals, official figures have revealed.

The total discount offered to customers under a government initiative to boost the hospitality sector was just over £1m, with the average discount per meal valued at £5.39.

A total of 132 businesses across the constituency registered for the scheme which ran for the first three days of the week throughout August, offering half price meals up to a maximum of £10 off per person.

Province-wide, almost 2.8 million meals were claimed for, with the total discount claimed a whopping £16m.

South Belfast topped the league table for the highest number of discounted meals – 374,000 – representing a total of almost £2.3m, closely followed by West Belfast with 302,000 meals, claimed at a total discount cost of  almost £1.75m.

HMRC has confirmed more than 2.7 million meals were claimed for across Northern Ireland providing diners with a total discount of just over £16m.

Over 2,000 food outlets took part in the scheme with £5.79 the average discounted meal figure, with the highest recorded discount – £6.49 – in the Strangford constituency where 99 businesses signed up for the scheme.

The total discount figure for this particular constituency was £716,000, with business owners claiming for 110,000 discounted meals.

Many businesses across Down District signed up for the scheme to support an industry hardest hit by the coronavirus lockdown, with some continuing to offer their own promotions to keep customers coming through the doors this month.

Downpatrick area councillor Dermot Curran says he is aware of many businesses which participated in the scheme which generated some much-needed cash after they had been forced to close for many weeks.

“Some businesses are running their own promotions this month which is good to see as the hospitality sector is one of the mainstays of the district’s economy,” he added.

“The success of the eating out scheme is evidenced in the fact that almost three million meals were eaten across Northern Ireland providing a much-needed boost for the hospitality sector. In South Down, 186,000 discounted meals were claimed from HMRC.”

Cllr Curran said while many businesses were able to participate in the scheme, some were unable to do so for a variety of reasons, including the fact that they do not open on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

He added: “The hospitality sector is crucial to many livelihoods, not just locally, but across Northern Ireland. Prior to coronavirus, it sustained 60,000 jobs contributing over £1.1bn to the local economy annually.”

Hospitality Ulster chief executive Colin Neill said his organisation lobbied for an extension to the government scheme and confirmed that it would continue to appeal to Stormont for support as the industry moved into a more quieter period.

“You have to remember that what looked busy was actually operating at a reduced capacity,” he said. “We had the summer staycation business, which has gone and we don’t have the offices and the business tourism that comes with it. There is a challenging period ahead.

“This is not about making money, it is about breaking even and keeping jobs safe because on furlough they are only preserved. We are just trying to get through this period and there has still been no help for traditional pubs because if you don’t serve food, you can’t open.”