MORE than £5,500,000 worth of discounts was claimed by residents and visitors to Dorset during the month of August as part of the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

Customers to the 1,070 restaurants across the county that signed up to the scheme saved £5.58 on average per meal when dining out at eateries.

Over 1,600,000 meals claimed under the month-long initiative to assist struggling hospitality companies.

South Dorset claimed 242,000 meals under the scheme, one of the highest by any constituency in the south west, amassing a total discount for the month of £1,202,000.

Chief operating officer of Bournemouth Town Centre BID Paul Kinvig said: “All the reports that we have seen have indicated that the scheme was an incredible success.

“Of course, it meant the government had to pay out large sums of money which has affected the national economy.

“However, in terms of what is has done for local business, not just in Bournemouth but across the country, the effects has been significant.”

The breakdown for Dorset constituencies is as follows:

  • Bournemouth East: 61,000 meals claimed for, £292,000 discount claimed.
  • Bournemouth West: 206,000 meals claimed for, £1,112,000 discount claimed.
  • Christchurch: 116,000 meals claimed for, £543,000 discount claimed.
  • Mid Dorset and North Poole: 71,000 meals claimed for, £374,000 discount claimed.
  • North Dorset: 66,000 meals claimed for, £378,000 discount claimed.
  • Poole: 117,000 meals claimed for, £742,000 discount claimed.
  • South Dorset: 242,000 meals claimed for, £1,202,000 discount claimed.
  • West Dorset: 154,000 meals claimed for, £909,000 discount claimed.

Nationally, more than 100 million meals were claimed by about 84,700 restaurants under the Eat Out to Help Out scheme

According to data from booking site OpenTable, restaurant reservations rose by 53 per cent compared with the Monday-to-Wednesday period in August 2019.

Many eateries are calling on the government to introduce a similar scheme as high streets fall silent and summer comes to an end.

Paul Kinvig added: “The consensus of businesses that we have heard from is that they would like to see the scheme or something similar return in October and November as the pandemic is due to continue through the winter months.

“However, not just for restaurants, but possibly opening it up to different sectors so they are able to profit from it as well.

“The numbers that we have seen are scary, but the supply chain also needs time to catch up, but the scheme has benefited the local economy as well as the national economy.”

A number of national restaurants, including Harvester, Toby Carvery and Stonehouse Pizza, and independents, such as House Martin in New Milton and Blandford’s Crown Hotel, have decided to run their own discounts in order to continue bringing customers through the door.

Leader of BCP Council Vikki Slade said: “We have been pleased to see so many residents supporting their community by returning to our local eateries, cafes and restaurants, whilst at same following government guidance and being sensible when out and about.

“During a critical recovery period for our towns and businesses, it’s essential that we continue to show our support for the local hospitality sector and act responsibly when enjoying meals out.

“Due to the scheme’s success we have also seen some businesses take the initiative and continue the Eat Out to Help Out discount beyond August.

“We would however welcome more support from Government, including an extension to support the retail sector.’’