Brakes CEO calls for EOTHO scheme to be extended as demand soars

Brakes, the UK’s leading foodservice wholesaler, has reported a surge in demand as millions of consumers flock to pubs and restaurants to take advantage of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

While the weekend continues to recover slowly, hospitality is celebrating the initial success of the Chancellor’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which sees consumers save up to £10 per person, Monday to Wednesday during August.

More than 85,000 outlets have registered for the scheme, and HM Treasury figures show businesses have claimed over 35 million discounted Eat Out to Help Out meals. Brakes has seen Sunday for Monday orders rise by more than 150% when compared to the end of lock-down.

Hugo Mahoney, CEO at Brakes, said, “It seems that Monday has become the new Thursday for the hospitality sector and the Eat Out to Help Out scheme has been a real shot in the arm for many beleaguered businesses. It looks like this could be one of the economic success stories of the Government’s efforts to get businesses back on their feet after the pandemic.

“However, while fantastic, we would urge the Chancellor to extend the scheme into September as the sector continues to recover. We have been helped by good weather, but as schools go back and the sun disappears, we need to maintain the momentum and extending the scheme could really help.”

Brakes also notes some customers who didn’t initially reopen early in the week, racing to do so once they realised how ready consumers were to eat out to help out. The wholesaler has seen hundreds of pubs and restaurants take advantage of a ‘Get Back to Business’ package which has a mix of product, financial and operation support mechanisms as they gear up to reopen.

Concerns about the supply chain coping with the sudden surge in demand have proved to be unfounded as, working closely with suppliers, Brakes has also maintained very high product availability to ensure hospitality customers can offer the right dishes to appeal to those customers eating out to help out.

There has also been some good news outside of the Monday to Wednesday period, with pubs and restaurants servicing the ‘staycation’ market enjoying sales approaching pre-pandemic levels.

Duncan Rouse, Head of Managed Operations Support at Hall & Woodhouse Ltd, said, “The South Coast has always been popular and with the uncertainty of foreign travel, we have seen lots of people flocking to the seaside. This has been helped by the excellent weather we’ve been having, which has encouraged more guests to take advantage of staycations. As a result, we are seeing some excellent trade across our estate.”

Mahoney concluded, “While there are undoubtedly some great success stories across the country, there is no doubt that many operators continue to struggle. We are grateful to the Chancellor for what he’s done so far, but unfortunately, more still needs to be done. We hope HM Treasury is considering extending both the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, and the VAT cut for hospitality businesses, currently set to expire in January 2021.

“Additionally, we have seen what a lifeline to hospitality businesses the Government’s Job Retention Scheme proved to be. As the scheme tapers down it will create new cashflow difficulties, making it increasingly difficult for hospitality businesses to retain their talented staff. In a sector representing 10% of UK employment and 5% of UK GDP, it is imperative hospitality businesses continue to receive help to get back on their feet after the unique way they’ve been impacted by the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The hospitality industry holds a unique place in the hearts of British consumers, but the support we’ve seen must extend beyond the summer. Otherwise even more businesses will be at risk.”