Independent businesses in North Wales have had their say on the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.
The government scheme offered 50 per cent discount on menu items at many cafes, bars and restaurants across the region as an initiative to get people out and supporting the economy after four months of lockdown.
Now that the discount has come to an end since August 31, North Wales Live spoke to businesses on how the scheme affected them and their thoughts on the future ahead.
John Evans has been the owner of The Black Boy Inn for 17 years.
The Caernarfon businessman agreed that the Eat Out to Help Out scheme did have a positive effect on his pub, but also said that a similar scheme should be put in place later on in the year.
“We are busy this time of year anyway,” he told North Wales Live.
“The scheme just added to the craziness and although it was positive for most of it, it would have been good to see the scheme used later on in the year, during the winter season perhaps, when we are not as busy.
“This could be especially beneficial in counties around North Wales that are heavily dependent on the tourism and hospitality sector in our local economy.
“Now, we are seeing a decrease in the footfall but this has also come at a time when schools have reopened, so it’s hard to tell what has determined what.”
Despite the positive impact the scheme has had, John revealed that it also had its negative moments.
“At some point, my staff experienced verbal abuse from some customers,” he said.
“Some customers were either asking for some items for free or further discount on others. It added a lot of stress on an already stressful time and it was sad to see, especially the younger staff, having to experience that.
“I’m glad we were on the scheme, but I do hope times will change and we will be able to soon get back to our usual self completely.”
Daniel Owen of Starvation bar in Rhosneigr also agreed.
Daniel had been the manager of the Anglesey bar since February – a month before it was announced that all cafes, bars and restaurants were to close due to the coronavirus crisis.
According to him, although the scheme had given them the boost that they needed, he was glad to see the end of it so they could focus more on their business.
“The last few months have been very challenging,” he said.
“We closed just a week after it was announced that pubs were closed. We tried to offer takeaways but it didn’t work out because there weren’t any customers here.
“Rhosneigr is heavily dependent on its tourism industry, and with that up and running again, I believe we would have been just as busy whether we had the scheme or not.
“We were so happy to restart again, tourists have been flocking to our bar and it’s great to see our business up and running again.
“At times, because of the scheme, this place got really hectic – there was a lot more pressure on us, and that will restrictions in place, it was a lot of stress on our staff, customers were ordering a lot more than usually and consequently were wasting more, and tables were empty for only a short amount of time. It was like a conveyor belt.
“Without the scheme, we are just going to see how it goes. We are changing our menus so we can attract new and exisiting diners here.
“We have still made a loss this year, so it’s important now that we focus on trying to change that.”
In Llanrwst, Megan Lloyd opened her cafe, Caffi Ffika, in November of last year.
Despite the changes during lockdown, Megan and her partner Ben continued with their business.
“We closed the shop but then we offered delieveries and takeaways,” she revealed.
“We felt it was necessary to change with the times. Although we opened the cafe last year, the business has been around since seven years now and I consider myself really lucky that I was able to depend on other things to get us through lockdown.
“Right now, our cafe is still closed but we have a food truck so that we are still able to offer food and coffee to our customers. We’re taking everything day-by-day and that has been working well for us so far.
“We decided to get on the scheme because we felt like we had nothing to lose. It worked really well at the beginning of the week, especially on Tuesday because that’s when the market opens in Llanrwst. The scheme definitely did encourage people to go out there and shop.
“Now we are focusing on ways we can develop from that. Recently we got our alcohol license and we’re hoping to open a bar in the evening, which will be really exciting.
“I think this period and the scheme itself has proven how important it is to support your local high streets and independent businesses – now more than ever.”
What did you have to say about the scheme?
We asked our readers on their thoughts on the scheme and many took to social media to have their say.
Like John Evans of the Black Boy Inn, Jan Spence also believed that another scheme should be brought later on in the year.
She said: “It should have been done later in the year as august is a busy time for tourism.
“We were unable to book some of our favourite restaurants as they were booked up way in advance, and also because of the 2 metre distancing a lot of restaurants lost tables. It’s time it was reduced to 1 metre.”
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However, reader Barbara Lund had only praise for the scheme.
She said: “I used it quite a lot in both eateries where I live.
“Ate outside or bought takeaways, it was really positive to see places busy again.
“Thought it was a well thought out scheme as I’m not sure we would have moved away from eating at home. Plus our food was great!”
Rachel Groom also agreed and said: “Great idea to stimulate the hospitality industry, many of these independent traders have been facing an uncertain future. I’ll continue to support independent caterers and businesses going forward.”
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