Britons ate more than 100 million government-subsidised meals in August as part of a programme to kick-start the UK restaurant industry, which was effectively shut down during the coronavirus lockdown.
According to the UK Treasury, the 84,700 establishments which signed up to Eat Out to Help Out made 130,000 claims worth £522m (Dh2.54bn) although that figure is expected to rise.
The figure already surpasses the UK Treasury’s £500m (Dh2.45bn) estimate when the plan was announced in July and restaurants have until the end of September to claim the subsidies.
Finance minister Rishi Sunak said 1.8 million jobs in the hospitality sector had been protected by the scheme, which saw the government pay 50 per cent of the price of a meal up to a maximum of £10 (Dh48.90) on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Data showed that restaurant bookings were up by 53 per cent on those three days throughout August compared with the same month last year.
However, there is limited evidence that demand has remained with only a two per cent rise in bookings on September 1 from the same day in 2019.
Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of the UK hospitality trade association, said Eat Out to Help Out had provided a crucial boost to a sector that had been crippled by the Covid-19 pandemic.
"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," she said.
Jes Staley, the chief executive of Barclays bank, said data compiled by his company showed that restaurant spending grew by 34 per cent on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in August compared with the same days in July.
“The scheme has given the industry a real boost and will hopefully support the jobs of many hardworking restaurant and fast-food employees across the country,” Mr Staley said.
“Consumer feedback was also very encouraging with almost one in five planning to continue dining out more often to support the industry, and a similar number saying that they will return to restaurants they would not have visited otherwise,” he added.