Restaurants are reporting that the “Eat Out To Help” half-price / £10 limit incentive to get people to dine out seems to be working despite their businesses having to implement social distancing measures which mean table capacity is reduced by around 50 percent. In fact, many businesses in the food hospitality industry are reporting a steep rise in bookings and say that the scheme to get more people into their eating establishments is welcome as they need all the financial help they can get post-lockdown
Unfortunately, it has come too late for many businesses in the restaurant trade that have either gone out of business or are about to. With large numbers of redundancies and uncertainty in the sector all over the country, the scheme is a very welcome relief for those business owners who are still operating or can quickly open again.
The big question is, however, what is the health cost to not just the diners but to the lives of others in the local communities and for the wider national wellbeing because the covid-19 pandemic is still raising its ugly head?
For instance, the National Obesity Forum has said that the eat out scheme is: “…a green light to promote any old junk menu that the participating restaurant feels it can get away with”. And even though there are queues of people waiting in line to dine and advanced booking are on the up, does the scheme help Boris Johnson’s obesity rally for people to lose weight and help fight against the coronavirus?
The Prime Minister reports losing over a stone in weight since his escape from the Covid-19 clutches, but are others now tempted in some restaurants by the cheaper half-price burger and chips options and may therefore, actually go in the opposite direction and put on undesirable weight?
In addition, is the scheme inadvertently encouraging people to relax their guard on social distancing? Is there a health risk from eating out even though the restaurants are taking the relevant precautions and issuing masks to staff and providing sanitisers and clear distancing rules to customers? Given the right resources, even if track and trace is being implemented, are people becoming too comfortable about the element of risk surrounding the possibility of new virus outbreaks?
Yes, we would all agree and celebrate that it’s great to see people out and about and enjoying social occasions once more. And office and retail sector workers back at work again with many having lunch in excellent food establishments. We all need to help the economy and save businesses. And yet, as the Prime Minister has said once too often, the government’s decisions to date on tackling this brutal pandemic …can only be judged with hindsight.