Throughout August you can get up to £10 extra off your meals per person when dining out.
As part of the Government’s plans to stimulate the economy announced in July, the big surprise was an initiative called Eat Out to Help Out.
Despite speculation there could be spending vouchers or widespread VAT cuts, instead it looked like BoJo and the Chancellor Rishi Sunak were getting in on the coupon business in attempt to get us back in restaurants and cafes.
I’m not convinced that £10 off a meal is going to be enough to encourage those still unsure about their safety to change their mind, but if you are happy to eat out, not only can this save you money, but you can stack it with other offers to really bring the price down.
How Eat Out To Help Out Works
You can get 50% off your meal up to £10 per person at participating restaurants in August. It’s only valid Monday to Wednesday, and it’s only for food you eat-in. This means takeaways are not part of the scheme.
You’ll get the money off any food and non-alcoholic drinks you order – but any spend on booze won’t count.
The discount is also calculated based on the number of diners – not on who ordered what. So say the total bill for two is £40, but one of you spend £25 and the other £15, you’ll get the full discount of £10 each.
How to claim the discount
There’s no need for a voucher as you won’t need to do anything to get the saving – the money will be taken off your bill automatically. The restaurant then needs to claim the money back from the government.
How many times can you use the offer?
There’s no limit to how many times you can eat at a Eat Out to Help Out restaurant – as long as it’s a Monday to Wednesday in August.
What about tipping and service charges?
The discount is applied before extras such as tips are calculated. This means you should really tip based on the full price amount rather than the discounted amount.
So a £40 meal for two with 10% added would cost you £24 – £20 for the food and £4 for the tip.
Which restaurants are taking part?
There are a huge number of local restaurants and national chains taking part. Where I live there’s everything from my favourite local Thai through to McDonalds. Plenty of choice!
You can use a handy postcode tool to help you find out the participating venues near you (within a 5 miile radius). However it does seem to limit to 100 results, meaning some places might get missed off if you live in a town or city.
There’s an additional list of chain restaurants, and you can also look out for a sticker which should be in the windows.
Obviously this is a great opportunity to support local business owners who really will have felt the impact of the shutdown, so I’d encourage you to take your custom to these places rather than big chains like Nandos or Burger King.
Don’t forget you can also use this in cafes, coffee shops, ice cream parlours… as long as you are eating in.
How to stack Eat Out To Help Out with other offers
The deal hunter side of me is excited about combining the EOTHO offer with other ways to save. This could be anything from special set meal offers through to other food discount schemes.
Remember, this 50%/£10 saving is something the restaurant will claim back from the government, so they are able to offer any additional savings they want to get you through the doors.
Here are a few to look out for:
If you’ve got favourite places to eat, check out their websites or social media (or just ask) to see if they have other promotions and savings in place.
Monday to Wednesday are usually quiet days with regular offers which could still be running. The classic “pre-theatre” set menu slot to get early diners in before 6.30pm won’t necessarily have disappeared even with theatres closed, and places might even have new offers for the month.
For example, my fave place to eat is Hawksmoor (London, Manchester and Edinburgh). They’re offering steak and chips for £20 rather than £30, meaning you’ll pay just £10. An absolute bargain. If I only I lived near one now!
Or you might find places like Beefeater (and other Whitbread pubs and restaurants) which are offering the full 50% off food and non-alcoholic drinks beyond the £10 cap. So spend £50 for two people and you’ll pay just £25.
If you want to support as many places as possible and are likely to spend more than £20 per person, then you could consider splitting your meal between different establishments – especially those which don’t offer main courses.
For example, once you’ve had your main, you could pop to a crepe place for dessert, then onto a coffee shop for a post-meal brew.
You’ll get 50% off each time up to £10 per person. So say the starter & main is £20, the dessert is £8 and the coffee £3. At a single place the total would be £31 and you’d pay £21. But separately, you’d get the full 50% off, paying £15.50.
I appreciate this isn’t going to work most of the time, but it’s worth thinking about.
The 75% VAT Cut
Another measure in the Summer Statement was reducing VAT from 20% to 5% for leisure and entertainment businesses, including restaurants and cafes.
Now this doesn’t mean prices will be reduced – the owners might have understandably decided to keep them the same to help cover losses they’ve experienced since March.
But if prices have dropped, this will be already factored in before the Eat Out to Help Out 50% is applied. If you’re not sure whether the saving is passed on in the prices you see on menus, just ask.
If you’ve got a Tastecard, Gourmet Society etc then you’ll be able to use this at particpating restaurants to save money on your food and drink BEFORE the extra 50% is applied.
So say you and a friend spend £80 on food and Tastecard offers you 50% off (it could be 2 for 1 or similar), the bill would drop to £40. But you’d only pay £20 as half that amount would be claimed back by the restaurant.
You can currently get three months Tastecard or Gourmet Society for free.
American Express Shop Small
I love this offer. Spend £10 at a participating restaurant and you’ll get £5 back to your Amex card. So This could mean a £20 spend costs you just £5 after both offers are applied. Here’s more on how Shop Small works and how to get the most out of it.
Don’t forget to check your other debit and credit cards to see if they are offering cashback on purchases in restaurants. For example on my Amex there’s 5% back at Five Guys, while on my Natwest Rewards account there’s 5% at Caffe Nero (which is also on cashback app Airtime Rewards too!).
Similar to Tastecard (it’s actually run by the same organisation), the Meerkat Meals promotion will get you two for one on starters, mains and desserts.
You get it by taking out an insurance policy from Compare the Market and there’s a trick that can currently get you access for just £2.50 (ish).
Membership is valid for a year. You’ll also get two for one tickets to cinemas (when they are open).