HARD-HIT restaurants are hoping to keep customers coming in with variations on the government’s Eat Out To Help Out deal.

The official scheme was designed to help the industry cope with the coronavirus crisis, offering diners a 50 per cent discount on food and soft drinks up to £10 a head on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in August.

Some 85,000 restaurants joined the initiative and diners have bagged more than 64 million discounted meals.

The offer ends on Monday, but some restaurants are hoping to capitalise on its success with deals of their own.

The Argus:

Brighton seafood restaurant Riddle and Finns, which has one branch in The Lanes and another in the King’s Road Arches, plans to extend the scheme into the first two weeks of September.

“If you eat out, we will help out,” the restaurant posted on Instagram.

A spokeswoman said the scheme had been very popular and that it had been “lovely having everyone back in the restaurant”.

The owners of The Fish Factory and The Fat Greek Taverna in Worthing plan to replicate the government’s deal every Wednesday until December.

The company said: “We hope all our customers will continue to enjoy the experience of dining out and saving money for the rest of the year at least.

“We would like to thank our customers for your outstanding support and look forward to serving you all soon.”

Several pubs are planning to continue the offer too – among them The Onslow Arms in Loxwood and The Wheatsheaf in Midhurst.

The Argus:

The pubs, both owned by Barr and Barr’s Hospitality, will offer a similar deal throughout September, with 50 per cent off, up to £10 a head, for those who pre-book.

Drinks are not included.

Pub director Rob Barr said: “It’s been amazing to have both our pubs open since July 4 after lockdown and the Eat Out To Help Out scheme has been great for us as a business and for our customers to get back out and enjoy a meal with family in a socially distanced environment away from home.

“We are so happy to be able to extend the offer to customers new and old.

“All we ask is that you pre-book your table with us in order to redeem the offer.

“As a small business we have been blown away by the support of the community and this is our way of returning that support.”

The Argus:

Not all restaurants are able to offer deals like these and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has called for the government to extend the official scheme into September.

The federation’s chairman Mike Cherry said: “The Eat Out To Help Out scheme has been an overwhelming success in getting people back on their high streets and in their town centres.

“We now need to see it extended to continue the critical support that it is providing for small firms as we enter a period of economic make or break.

“Over the past few weeks, the scheme has been hugely welcomed by small businesses and their customers alike.

“A nationwide one-month extension would go some way to helping many firms which are still only just about managing in this time of crisis.

“More than 35 million meals have been cooked and dished out across almost 50,000 restaurants and cafes who have been able to reap the rewards of this great initiative, but as we enter September with schools reopening and more people going back to their places of work, there are still strong merits to continuing this for one more month.

“Additional support is still needed for certain groups in the leisure sector, especially pubs.

“We need to see these community hubs fully brought into the Eat Out To Help Out fold, particularly as they have been excluded from the recent VAT cut for food.

“We must do all we can to safeguard the futures of the small firms that make up 99 per cent of our small business community.

“They will be pivotal to our recovery from this recession.”