Britons ate more than 100 million meals last month as part of the Eat Out to Help Out discount scheme, the Treasury has said.
Initial figures have revealed that restaurant bookings surged as a result of the stimulus programme designed to boost the hospitality sector after it was hammered by the enforced closure of pubs, restaurants and cafes.
Diners received a state-backed 50% discount on meals and soft drinks up to £10 each between Mondays and Wednesdays in August.
The final day of the scheme, Monday August 31, saw a 216% jump in bookings compared to the equivalent day in 2019, according to initial data from OpenTable.
Our members have reported very strong bookings throughout August at a time when the sector really needed a boost.
By the end of Monday, 130,000 claims were made by 84,700 restaurants signed up to the programme, with claims costing around £522 million.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak hailed the programme as a “success”.
He said: “From the get-go our mission has been to protect jobs, and to do this we needed to be creative, brave and try things that no government has ever done before.
“I want to thank everyone, from restaurant owners to waiters, chefs and diners, for embracing it and helping drive our economic recovery.
“The scheme is just one part of our plan for jobs and we will continue to protect, support and create jobs to ensure we come back stronger as a nation.”
Some restaurants chains, such as Pizza Hut and Bill’s, have said they will finance similar offers this month following the jump in demand after the Treasury said it would not extend the scheme.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, said: “The Eat Out To Help Out scheme has been a great success for hospitality.
“Our members have reported very strong bookings throughout August at a time when the sector really needed a boost.
“It has helped provide a lift in consumer confidence which is going to be key for hospitality businesses as they look to reopen and help rebuild the economy.”
Stephen Wall, managing director and co-founder of Pho, said: “The Eat Out to Help Out scheme has really been amazing.
“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.”