By Sharon Smith, CEO Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce

This week has seen the introduction of the government scheme, Eat Out to Help Out. designed to boost the hospitality sector by providing visitors with a 50% discount on food and drinks up to £10 per person during the whole of August when customers eat or drink in, which the treasury will then reimburse businesses.

Interest had been high with the restaurant finder website in the run up to the schemes launch, seeing millions of hits and high levels of interest.

It is the hope that this scheme will provide a much needed cash injection to food and drink businesses who have been amongst the hardest hit businesses during the Coronavirus Crisis.

When restrictions were lifted, businesses made it clear that since re-opening they had seen a drop in the number of customers returning to their premises as confidence in visiting these businesses dropped amid health and safety concerns. Government were swift to intervene, and this scheme will help businesses who have raised apprehensions regarding dwindling cash reserves over the last few months.

During the height of lockdown it was reported that pubs and restaurants had seen sales plunge by £30bn which equates to 87%. The sector employees up to 3.2m people so support needed to be provided in order to save countless jobs.

With the inevitability of increased numbers of customers walking through restaurants and other establishments doors, businesses will need to ensure they have the right measures in place and comply with government guidelines to help manage this more active period of increased custom to avoid a spike in new infections. Failure to do so could mean a disastrous return to more restrictive environments.

Currently the scheme will last until August 31, when the concerns of the hospitality industry are what happens after August? Whilst this month may provide the cash injection that these businesses are crying out for, government will have to be open to provide further support for a more extensive period in order to avoid a repeat slump in cash reserves in a few months’ time.

For now however, local businesses will enjoy an increase in bookings and hopefully see a much needed rise in cash reserves that for many in the hospitality sector will be an important lifeline.

For businesses who would like further advice on the guidelines, visit our Coronavirus Business Support Hub.