BUSINESSES are hoping a scheme to get people eating out will help boost what had been a ‘testing time’ for many food establishments.

From Monday, August 3, diners can get 50 per cent off their food and non-alcoholic drinks as part of the new Government ‘Eat Out to Help Out Scheme’.

The offer is open up to a total value of £10 per person if you eat or drink in a range of establishments across the county.

It can be used every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday between 3 August and 31 August as many times as you like. The scheme does not cover takeaways.

Claire Khan, who runs The Pepper Pot at Blackburn Market, said it had been testing time for food businesses since they re-opened on June 15 and they had signed up to the scheme hoping it would attract people back.

She estimated their trade was about half it was before the lockdown in March.

She said: “Since we re-opened it was gradually getting better but nowhere near where we were and it was improving. But since Blackburn was in the news over the infection rate things have slowly dropped off again.

“Hopefully this scheme will encourage customers to come back. We are doing everything we can to make it safer for customers.”

Diners don’t need a voucher to use the scheme and you can use it at the same time as other offers and discounts. There is no minimum spend and the discount also applies to children. Businesses will remove the discounted sum from the bill, which they will then be able to reclaim through HMRC’s online service.

Shabaz Akber, of Heavenly Desserts, in Sudell Cross, Blackburn, said people were still not confident eating out but he wanted to reassure diners that firms were taking all the necessary precautions.

He said: “We retained most of our staff and are bringing them back as this is meant to be our busy period. This initiative should help us out.

“We stayed open for take-out during the lockdown and thankfully we were quite busy. It is still not to the level that it was pre-lockdown.

“We have had a few people calling in booking tables for next week which is encouraging. I think we will see more families coming out. A lot of people are confused about this will work though.

“From an eat-in perspective people are still not confident to come out. We want people to understand we have safety measures in place, includes sanitising stations, all staff have masks and we have reducing seating capacity by 25 per cent to ensure we have social distancing in place.”

Richard Isherwood, general manager of the Exchange Coffee Company, in Blackburn town centre, said local restrictions had driven people away.

He said, “We probably did 50 per cent of what we normally do when the lockdown ended and it was building gradually, creeping up and week on week out and we hoping to open the shop on Fleming Square too.

“Then when Blackburn hit the national news with the spike, we have noticed there has been an absolute drop off. Last week was by our worst week.”

Richard said he had registered with the scheme for the sit down restaurants for the shop on Fleming Square and in Clitheroe. He said: “With us registering for Fleming Square it made sense to register here but the food we do here is a smaller range. More than ever we need reasons for people to come out.”

Richard is hoping to open the Fleming Square restaurant next month saying: “We rely on the college, the council and Capita but many staff are working from home. So that is part of the reason we have remained closed there.”

Visit for a list of businesses signed up to the scheme.