More than 35 million half-price meals have been served by restaurants across the UK in the first two weeks of the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme.
The Treasury said that millions of people have dined out on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday so far this month, and claims from restaurants are streaming in.
It has been landed with a £180 million bill from the restaurants so far.
Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs revealed the cost of the scheme hours after the Treasury said it had received 48,000 claims from the 85,000 restaurants that have signed up.
The payment averages £5.14 per meal. As part of the scheme, restaurants charge customers half price – up to £10 per diner – then claim the money back from the government.
The scheme runs for the first three days of each week all throughout August.
More claims for the first two weeks of the scheme are likely to trickle in in the next few days.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “Today’s figures show that Britain is eating out to help out, with at least 35 million meals served up in the first two weeks alone, that is equivalent to over half of the UK taking part and supporting local jobs in the hospitality sector.
“To build back better we must protect as many jobs as possible, that is why I am urging all registered businesses to make the most of this by claiming back today – it’s free, simple and pays out within five working days.”
The Treasury urged people to enjoy the scheme “as part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle.”
Stephen Wall, the co-founder of restaurant chain Pho, said: “The Eat Out to Help Out scheme has really been amazing.
“It’s so nice to see our restaurants full of happy staff and customers again.
“It has certainly benefited our early week figures and seems to have encouraged the British public to dine out safely, as our restaurants are filling up and staying busy throughout the weekend, too.”
Around 8% of the country’s workforce, or 2.4 million people, work in the hospitality, accommodation and attractions sector, which was badly hit during lockdown.
About 80% of hospitality firms stopped trading in April, and 1.4 workers from the sector were furloughed.
The public can find out which of their local establishments are taking part by using a postcode checker here.