EAT OUT TO HELP OUT: GOVERNMENT STEPS ASIDE, GROSVENOR STEPS IN
One of the most interesting moves this week was the decision by Grosvenor to extend the ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ scheme for tenants across its Mayfair and Belgravia holdings. Take-up of the Government’s scheme has been hugely successful – figures this week revealed some 64 million meals had been claimed – but is set to come to an end on Monday. But for those restaurants that occupy Grosvenor properties, the years of premium rents are about to pay off, with the landed estate picking up the bill for its own Eat Out To Help Out programme in September.
Those restaurants within the estate will welcome the news, as will the patrons that visit the establishments – although there is a question mark over whether £10 off of lunch is enough to entice the well-heeled residents of W1 and SW1. Likelier, perhaps, is a diversion of customers from nearby areas such as Soho, Fitzrovia and Pimlico while the scheme is in operation.
For Grosvenor, this is a particularly smart move – helping occupiers weather the bad times will likely translate into lower void rates further down the line – but one that as a landed estate it is particularly well-placed to enact. With low levels of debt and a host of office and residential occupiers continuing to pay the bills, a little support for the restaurants on its patch will go a long way.
But while the two Eat Out To Help Out Schemes look the same, they are actually trying to achieve different things. Grosvenor’s aim is to get more cash into restaurant tills, knowing that this makes it all the more likely that its rent collection will hold up better as a result though. For the Government, however, the extra income for restaurants is a mere side-effect; if it simply wanted restaurants to have more cash, a bailout similar to that seen for the arts would be much easier to administer. What Sunak really wants us to do is get used to the idea of eating out again.
A legacy problem of the Government’s messaging is that it was almost too effective; ministers were surprised at the level of observance of the lockdown, and now that things are opening up the same caution remains. A true economic recovery cannot happen until people become comfortable again eating out. It is a tightrope to walk, but if the scheme can help us ‘unlearn’ some of the behaviours that served us so well when the outbreak was at its height, it will have done its job.
Most people that have taken advantage of the scheme have been surprised at how comfortable they have been with the protocols, and felt safer than they expected to. If caution is the main thing holding people back from returning to restaurants and pubs, Eat Out To Help Out has broken the taboo. And if you’ve visited a restaurant, it’s not as big a leap to take a train and go back to the office. Our city centres need people in them; let us hope Rishi’s Discount will encourage more of us to do just that.
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