As seasoned event organisers, we’re used to working with some of the very best of the region’s hospitality sector, from local hotels and entertainment venues to Birmingham’s bars and restaurants.
Whilst every business has faced its own set of unique challenges in the last few months, hospitality has been especially hard hit.
With the launch of this month’s Eat Out to Help Out Scheme, we’re looking forward to visiting some of our favourite venues and supporting their recovery.
Why? Because our city needs them.
And after five months of home cooking, their return is definitely a reason to be cheerful.
You’ll be familiar with Eat Out to Help Out by now. Colloquially known as “Rishi’s Dishes” in honour of chancellor Rishi Sunak, the scheme aims to help hospitality back on its feet by encouraging dine-in custom.
No vouchers are needed, all you need to do is to check that your restaurant, café or pub of choice is listed on the government’s Eat Out to Help Out website.
Ideally you should book online but if it’s not possible, make sure you turn up early to secure a socially distanced table as many restaurants are operating at around 30-40% below their pre-lockdown capacity.
The scheme will give you a 50% discount on food or non-alcoholic drinks to eat or drink in (up to a maximum of £10 discount per diner) every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday between 3 and 31 August. As many times as you like.
Takeaway food, which has boomed under lockdown, is excluded from the deal.
So what’s not to like? Food you haven’t had to prepare, the opportunity to eat it safely and the chance to treat a friend or loved one at half the price. All while supporting your favourite venues.
Muffin compares to you
You’re in and around Birmingham city centre and you’re peckish. Where should you dine?
As a culinary hot spot, the choice is endless. From Michelin starred restaurants to independent cafes, Birmingham boasts some of the best venues, whether you’re on a budget or ready for a blowout.
Here’s where we’re heading:
Barques MD Jilly Cosgrove knows a good eatery when she sees one. Jilly has hosted countless events in Birmingham, from breakfast networking events to evening cocktail parties.
She said: “I think this is just the kick start that many in the sector need, as Monday to Wednesday wouldn’t normally be busy. Hopefully venues will still have their regulars on the weekends. We always like to see our neighbours doing well and it’s great to see so many bookings at Cucina Rustica on Ludgate Hill. Tattu is also involved in the scheme and is well worth a visit and I’m also looking forward to going to Gino D’Acampo’s on Temple Row.”
“I had a great lunch last Saturday at the High Field in Edgbaston,” said Lee Jones, senior designer at Barques. “I tried a Bavette steak for the first time, it was excellent, really flavoursome and I would definitely recommend it. They are taking social distancing seriously, which made it a relaxed and enjoyable lunch.”
PR account director, Paul King, said: “We’ll be heading to Damascena for some Middle-Eastern inspired breakfast in Moseley. It’s a brilliant independent coffee house which is really good value for money and offers something very different to anywhere else. There are now four Damascena outlets across Birmingham and a delicatessen which is supporting several jobs so I really wish them well.”
And whilst alcoholic beverages aren’t covered by the scheme, if you’re looking for a good pint to accompany your meal, then look no further than the Jewellery Quarter.
“I would much rather support our local establishments,” said social media and content manager, Hannah Gallop, “so I’m looking forward to returning to 1000 Trades for my first pint since before lockdown. It’s a great independent bar and kitchen, and they serve an extensive range of drinks. I’m also still quite anxious about being in busy public spaces but the safety measures that 1000 Trades has implemented have really helped to ease my mind.”
Food glorious food?
The big question being asked by many in the industry is: will Eat Out to Help Out work?
Early indications are that older customers remain unconvinced about eating out and are much less likely to take up the offer.
As the discount doesn’t apply to alcohol, your average pub or bar is unlikely to benefit. And with closures and job losses announced at the likes of Pizza Express since the scheme was launched, it’s clear that Eat Out to Help Out is unlikely to solve all of the industry’s problems.
However it’s important to recognise the huge steps the hospitality industry has made to ensure safety, from one-way systems and dedicated tables to perspex-covered ordering points.
If in the long run, the scheme encourages more of us to visit our favourite venues, hopefully, others will follow. And with so many of us still working from home, we have a real opportunity to visit local independents that we may never have tried before, supporting jobs in the process.
We’ll raise a glass to that.