HUNGRY bargain-hunters faced hours in queues yesterday on the final day of chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme.
Determined diners joked it was ‘food binge day’ and they would try to ‘eat as much as possible’ to make the most of the programme dubbed ‘Rishi’s Dishes’.
Customers at Josie’s cafe in Winchester were told it would take three hours to get a table if they joined a virtual queuing system, while those heading to Nando’s in Hammersmith, west London, faced a two-hour wait under a similar system.
After getting a seat, accountant Brandon Reis, 25, said: ‘The opportunity to make savings like this may never come again, so I’ve been eating out two to three times a week.’ The scheme has seen the government pay up to £10 per head at participating restaurants from Mondays to Wednesdays to boost the hospitality industry.
At Westfield shopping centre in White City, west London, Sylvia Betterman tried to get into Wahaca with her three children, but there were five people ahead of them. Her son Jacob, 18, said: ‘I thought because there’s so many restaurants we wouldn’t have to wait. But we went to Wagamama and it looked like a 25-minute wait, and Ping Pong was even more, about 40 minutes.’
Mr Sunak said more than 64million meals had been claimed since the scheme started on August 3. Reports it could be extended to help city centres were dismissed by a senior treasury source, who said: ‘We love it as much as everyone else but Rishi is very clear about hard stops.’
Pub operator JD Wetherspoon has said it will discount meals from Mondays to Wednesdays until at least November 11, calling the scheme a ‘great boost’ to the hospitality industry.