Operators must utilise what time remains of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme to consolidate a consumer connection, and encourage a return visit, MCA’s The Conversation has heard.

Speaking at the event, MCA contributing editor and CGA vice president Peter Martin said that although there is “no doubt” the Chancellor’s scheme has provided a sales boost for the sector, it is now up to the industry to build on the uplift going forward.

According to CGA’s consumer pulse survey, just over a quarter (27%) of British adults had utilised the discount before 11 August, and 31% said they were likely to do so before the end of the month.

Furthermore, two in five (39%) of those who have already used Eat Out to Help Out were making their first visit to a hospitality space since the end of lockdown.

“So, in terms of, one, sales, and two, confidence in the consumer base, Rishi is continuing to have a good covid,” Martin explained.

But if the tapering out furlough is anything to go by, he added, an extension of Eat Out to Help Out is unlikely, so it’s up to the industry to take advantage of the scheme as is, and show consumers that hospitality spaces are “safe, connect with them, and encourage them to come back.”

“The industry has had brilliant government support, but it just can’t afford to continue supporting one particular sector because, let’s face it, we are in dire economic straits in a broad sense,” he said.

“The issues are much broader than hospitality. We’ve had this boost, and we should be thankful for it, but we as an industry have to take advantage of it and build on it.”

Also speaking at the event, Fulham Shore chairman David Page agreed with Martin, adding that “the last two weeks have been extraordinary.”

Across his Franco Manca and The Real Greek brands, underlying sales were “at about 95%” before the beginning of the scheme, Page explained, and have since “seen the biggest uplift in a week or two than I’ve experienced in my whole career.”

“Effectively, we’ve now got five days on the weekend. We’ve got Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and the Thursday and Sunday have become the Monday and Tuesday.

“Without [the Chancellor’s] support and furlough scheme most of the businesses would have gone under, and now he’s trying to stimulate the top end in sales.

“As far as our sector’s concerned, I think that the Chancellor is doing a very good job.”