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Did Eat Out to Help Out really help out?

The Eat Out to Help Out scheme data

Over 64 million meals were claimed in the first three weeks of the scheme. 87,000 claims were made in that time by restaurants. The Government outlined research data from OpenTable showing that “… during Eat Out to Help Out’s third week the number of customers at UK restaurants was 61% higher than the same days last year on average for Monday to Wednesday. The average level across Monday to Wednesday in the first and second week were 12% and 41% respectively.”

The data also shows that the number of customers at UK restaurants was up 17% compared to the same week in 2019

The Government’s “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme saw consumers flock to restaurants to take advantage of an offer of 50% off meals and non alcoholic drinks, up to a maximum of £10 per person. But as the scheme ends today (31 August 2020), will consumers continue to eat out and has it helped?

I’ve been finding out more by asking on social media for people’s views:

Restaurants and safety

There were mixed feelings about safety:

Although Kathleen added that she felt less safe in England!

Shivali provided a win-win for more than just the restaurant and her:

Did restaurants gain?

Restaurants may find that they did not/will not gain as much as hoped, as some consumers spoke about using the scheme to visit restaurants on a different day than usual. Others spoke about not eating out in September, as they ate out so much in August! Some people even spoke about having a three-course meal with each course at a different venue to make even more of a saving. Some even had three meals out in one day (!)

More than saving money

Consumers spoke about going somewhere new and that they would return. For Heidi it was a win for both the restaurant and her.The scheme didn’t just help support restaurants and save consumers a little money though.

Not just helping restaurants

Janet Oganah owns Janet’s List, a curated platform that uses innovative approaches to connect consumers with brands by black women and women of colour from the UK. It provides unique pop-up concept stores in mainstream city locations, strategic retail partnerships and their direct-to-consumer website. She had lunch after a site visit for a potential future pop-up concept store. She usually just has a quick coffee or snack to catch up in person. But she took advantage of the scheme and said:

“We decided to have a ‘lovelier’ lunch than usual so went to the Ivy Market Grill in Covent Garden. This was only my second meal out since lockdown so I was quite nervous. They had but they had good measures in place (temperature checks, a foot-operated hand sanitiser and proper social distancing which was helpful). Petersham Nurseries was our actual preference (but they only opened from Wednesday onwards) so we found an alternative close by (The Ivy Market Grill) on the scheme. That definitely is not a ‘normal’ lunch so felt like a treat and I would go back.”

Has Eat Out to Help Out worked?

So has the scheme worked? It is probably too early to tell but respondents to a Twitter poll asking if the scheme had encouraged consumers to return to eating out, approximately one third of respondents said that it had.

As the survey shows, two thirds of respondents said that it hadn’t made any difference. So whilst many people did take advantage of the scheme, is it likely to help the economy in the long run? Is one third of the country eating out more because of the scheme going to last?  The scheme appears to have helped the sector. However, restaurants and cafes will continue to experience hardship, as they must either turn excess customers away due to social distancing or struggle to get people to visit them.

Wider help for businesses is needed

But should the Government be helping out only one sector in this way? Why just this sector? How about discounts to get people into gyms? Or discounts for UK attractions? The list could go on.

The Government should be looking at general policies, not specifically targeted policies, such as reductions in income tax and VAT, that would help businesses across all sectors.


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John Lewis, never knowingly underpaid? (except staff)

“Never knowingly undersold” Really?

John Lewis was once famous for the quality of its products, its impeccable customer service and its low prices, underwritten by the store’s promise to be “Never knowingly undersold”.

John Lewis store collection point in store

This week the BBC reported “John Lewis to pull ‘Never knowingly undersold’ pledge

It’s about time, given that the promise doesn’t cover online retailers at a time when there has been such an increase in online shopping.

Even if the company did move to honour this statement fully, it would be very difficult to administer, given that Amazon changes prices so often on nearly everything.

One has to wonder why it has taken John Lewis directors this long to realise that the pledge has been out of date for years. Consumer confidence in the brand has been diminishing over time and the pledge is now utterly meaningless to most consumers. It feels untrue to many.

And it’s not the first time John Lewis Partnership has dropped a promise. In 2018 Waitrose, the supermarket part of JLP, scaled back a pledge made in 2010 that it would price match Tesco, shrinking from 8,000 to just 1,200 products.

Sharon White, the new Chair, who started in February 2020, had already said that she expected the pledge to go. She’s paid £990,000 a year…

In 2019 John Lewis dropped the link to final salary in its pension scheme, hoping to save £80 million. It was thought that staff voted for this expecting an increased partnership bonus in March 2020. However, they actually received the lowest pay out since 1953, just a month after the new Chair started.

Perhaps staff aren’t now so loyal to a company that previously treated its staff so well? That in turn means not providing the extra service for which the company was formerly known.

Two lessons for John Lewis

There are two lessons to be learnt here:

1) Don’t keep a slogan for years after it has stopped being true


2) Leading staff to falsely believe that giving up one thing to get another will always backfire and cause them to mistrust future promises.

The overall message? Integrity. Staff and customers fall out of love with a company that isn’t honest in its dealings.

John Lewis has a long period of recovery ahead. But as an absolute priority it must start by regaining the trust of its staff and its customers as the first steps in turning its fortunes round.

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