RESTAURANT owners have thanked the government for their new scheme to help kickstart the economy and encourage people to eat out.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced as part of his new mini budget yesterday that all diners can receive 50 per cent off their food bills at restaurants from Monday to Wednesday throughout August.

The ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ initiative will also see the 20 per cent VAT rate on the hospitality and tourism industries drop to five per cent for six months from next week.

Diners and eateries in East Lancashire have welcomed the move, with Samlesbury's Bukhara owner, Zubair Patel, now considering increasing the days they are open to take advantage.

Mr Patel said: “I think it is fantastic because our industry has suffered a lot and we have had to adapt to stay safe.

“We have had to reduce our days from Wednesday to Sunday, but we are thinking now to open all week thanks to this scheme.

“The VAT reduction is a big help for all of us and is needed because we have been impacted for the last three months and this has deterred people from going out, so this will encourage them.”

Mr Sunak said: “We have set out our plan to protect, create and support jobs across the North West, levelling up opportunity as we safely reopen our economy.

“And with VAT cuts for the hospitality and tourism sector and our Eat Out to Help Out scheme, we’re protecting 236,000 existing hospitality jobs in the North West.

“I can announce that, for the month of August, we will give everyone in the country an ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ discount."

Businesses will need to register, and can do so through a simple website, which opens next Monday.

The deal means people can get up to £10 off per head if they eat out between Monday and Wednesday.

Mediterranean restaurant the Brizola Bar and Grill in Clitheroe was set to close on Wednesdays due to the reduction in footfall.

But owner Rachael Moreau was happy to hear of the new scheme and said they would consider opening if they could.

She said: “We have been operating as a takeaway over the last few weeks to get us going again.

“For them to come out with this is amazing and really helpful to us. I think it’s a great package for the hospitality industry and will help people like ourselves to get back on track.

“I think we are an important part of the industry because people don’t like going out shopping if they can’t eat too.

“The VAT reduction is a huge thing for us and we’re thankful to have this.

“This should help Clitheroe, full of independent businesses, come alive again.”

Councillor Phil Riley, Blackburn with Darwen’s regeneration boss, said: “It is an extraordinarily inventive idea, but I think it will be a great help to a sector that needs all the assistance it can get.”

Staff at Kebabish in Blackburn were a little sceptical whether the scheme would be enough to help beleaguered businesses but still said it was a good idea.

A spokesman said: “It will help all the hospitality businesses and running it for six months, the VAT relief, is certainly useful to us too.

“Going forward we would like to have the confidence that we will be supported, and I hope the government will make this clear in time.

“But, we’re looking forward to the scheme so that we can get all of our loyal customers back because we miss them.”

However, some diners still expressed their reservations on going out to eat.

Dorothy Bagnall said: “It will not make any difference to us I don’t feel confident enough the virus has finished here yet with all the freedom of travel.”

Dawn Perry said: “We won't be eating out for a long while.”