The Handbook
The Handbook

If you order a takeaway this Saturday night and expect 50% off the bill, you’ll be disappointed when the only freebie you get is more bloody prawn crackers.

As Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme gets underway, a lot of people seem to be confused about exactly how it works. Here’s the skinny…

So is it running this weekend?

Nope. In fact it’s not running on any weekends as the scheme is only applicable Monday to Wednesday each week of August.

So that’s, um… just thirteen days?

That’s your lot. However, you’re welcome to eat as many meals as you can on those days, so you could potentially rack up more than a month’s worth of dining…

Challenge accepted. And I get 50% off the bill?

Yes, but only up to £10. So when The Handbook publishes guides to Michelin restaurants enrolled in the scheme, note that you’ll only get £10 off the price of your £300 meal!

Should the government really be giving hand outs to the most expensive restaurants in the country?

I feel we’ve suddenly gotten a bit too philosophical here, but yes! These restaurants have been some of the most hard hit in the country, juggling astronomical rents and business rates too high to benefit from the government’s help. What’s more, they’ll be the worst affected by the downturn in tourism, meaning that the prospect of a full restaurant is months away.

Before I get off my pulpit, also remember that these restaurants might serve hedge fund managers, but they employ real people who rely on them, the waiters, junior staff and so on that go into making these restaurants so good are better in the kitchen than on the dole. If we want London to remain a great city known for amazing food then government is right to help every restaurant.

Alright, alright. And can I use the scheme for takeaways?

You can’t, the scheme must be used for eat-in diners only.

Shouldn’t it be called ‘Eat IN to help out’ then?

Smart arse. But there’s nothing stopping you starting the meal inside, then asking for a doggy bag and effectively turning it into a takeaway. If you absolutely must.

What’s not included in the scheme?

Only food and non-alcoholic drink is included, so you won’t get a discount on the service charge or any booze with more than 1% alcohol in it. Everything else is game, with 50% off all meals up to £10 per diner.

Kai Mayfair, home of the £70 starter...

Per diner? So can my children count toward the discount, even if they only eat rusks?

So now we’re gaming the system, right? Yes, kids count as diners so if a couple were to take two children and spend £10 on kiddie food and £90 on adult meals then you’ll still get £40 off your meal costs.

What about if I pay for each course separately?

Eh?

So is there anything stopping me paying the bill after the starter, then paying again after the main course and then again after pudding?

Hmmm. Looking carefully at the government guidance, it looks like you might be able to get away with this scam. So if you’re at an expensive restaurant and counted each course as a separate meal you would technically be eligible for 50% or £10 off each course. The discount only applies per visit, so you’d have to leave the premises briefly between courses.

So to maximise the scheme I should borrow four children and get the bill between each course?

I’d throw you out of my restaurant… but yes. I actually couldn’t believe this so I called the Treasury and checked and they confirmed this is a legit strategy.

Suppose you and your partner accumulate four children (the maximum who can meet between households), then go to a posh restaurant. You spend £120 on your opening courses (this feels like a reach even at the most spenny of restaurants, but Kai Mayfair do a sea sail soup for £68 if you’re looking), then you’d then apply a £60 discount, before traipsing out and back in again for your main.

Same drill again for the next two courses and your total bill would be an expensive £180 but your saving would be a sweet £180 as well.

Technically possible. Also practically (and legally) defrauding the tax payer and highly irritating for the restaurant. But there it is…

Here’s the government guidance for restaurants in full…