As a staff member in one of the biggest and busiest restaurant chains in the UK, I can confidently say the Eat Out To Help Out scheme caused nothing but stress and strain in our work environment.
When I first heard about the scheme, like most, I was completely confused by it’s objective. It was obvious that the government were trying to encourage people to go out and help fix the crumbling economy, yet this was the most counter effective idea that they could’ve come up with.
Any person in their right mind would see the amazing deal and snatch it up instantly, especially considering everyone had been trapped indoors with no real leisure for months. So it was no surprise that we had winding ques outside with numerous eager customers.
And although this was the governments clear intention, this was not ideal for our team who have just come back to work after three months of locking ourselves up at home due to a growing global pandemic.
The sharp change in our lifestyles from the beginning of July to the beginning of August was almost comical; how was it suddenly okay for an inordinate amount of people to all be in such a small space together? Had restaurants suddenly become immune to coronavirus?
We were overwhelmed and within 15 minutes of the doors being open, our virtual que was completely full for the next few hours.
The whole system was completely new to not just our loyal customers, but also the staff and even the managers of our restaurant, therefore it was a kind of trial and error process. And to add to the tense atmosphere, the height of summer had finally arrived.
The hot and sticky weather tends to affect even the best of us, and as you can imagine people were becoming agitated almost instantly. It was as if people had completely forgotten that most of us had not had much social contact for months on end!
Then we came to the next staggering hurdle: insufficient stock. The abundance of customers meant that we were getting a tremendous amount of orders every minute; each of those orders much bigger than they would usually be.
This meant our restaurant was using up most of the stock before we had even got half way through the day, and you can guess how people reacted to that!
Not only were we dealing with a profuse amount of customers whilst we were meant to be easing back in to working life, but now we were dealing with unnecessary abuse and ignorance due to something completely out of our hands.
The scheme attracted so many people to the restaurant that it became hard to cope with the sheer number of them all, and that should really say something about its contribution to what was to come in the following months.
To put it simply, the Eat Out to Help Out scheme was the most salient factor in causing the second wave of coronavirus to commence.
Even Boris Johnson admits the scheme has now prompted further discipline and lockdown restrictions across the country. He acknowledges that “insofar as that scheme may have helped to spread the virus, then obviously we need to counteract that.”
Although Johnson recognises the fault in the government’s actions, Chancellor Rishi Sunak still defends encouraging people back in to restaurants and pubs as he believes we should not ‘jump to simplistic conclusions’.
Sunak explains that the new soar in cases ‘seems to be more a feature just of the virus and the season than anything specific’.
But as a member of the hospitality sector I saw first hand how restaurants were majorly affected by the government induced inundation of customers. Monday to Wednesday was the new weekend. In fact, it was busier.
And now that I have to, by law, wear a face mask at work, I am confident that the Eat Out to Help Out scheme was a disastrous mistake.
It was very rare to see a customer enter the restaurant with a facemask throughout the entirety of the scheme, but now a customer must put on a face mask to walk to the toilet? It is obvious we are now paying for the mistakes the government have made, as the number of cases shows.
880 cases on the 1st August and now 7,108 on 1st October. The numbers speak for themselves.
The Eat Out to Help Out scheme was unnecessary and damaging to the hospitality sector. It was clear the government opted to save jobs rather than save lives, but realistically they even failed at that.
The new lockdown restrictions are detrimental to restaurants and pubs as they impose new limits on revenue, not just because of the time and group constraints, but because the rising number of cases has scared people away from social settings again.
Ultimately, the Chancellor’s scheme was the most counteractive idea for the hospitality sector, as we have now been chased almost all the way back to square one. But hey, thank your for trying to ‘save the jobs’!