Ian Morris and his family head out to try the government’s new Eat Out to Help Out (EOHO) scheme to support the economy, but it doesn’t go quite to plan.
I am not pigging out, I am helping, I think.
Sometimes you need an excuse, or a couple of excuses. Well, it was the eldest lad’s 20th birthday and the lovable Rishi Sunak had invited us all to ‘eat out to help out‘. While my wife’s birthday and our 25th anniversary had come to pass during lockdown, mine and my youngest’s 17th occurred just after the doors to restaurants had been flung open. It all felt too soon to go out and celebrate, so we relied on the good people of Just Eat to deliver to our ‘crib’, as I believe Mr S. D. Dogg would say.
The scheme – running through August – means if you dine out on Monday through Wednesday, Uncle Rishi will chip in up to £10 a head, so £40 for our family of four. We first tried a couple of local places, only to be told ‘Sorry, fully booked,’ which for a Wednesday suggested the scheme is working. So we ventured a little further afield and found a place in Port Solent.
As we approached, we thought ‘this sounds busy’ but I countered any concerns with ‘of course it will be busy, but it will also be Covid-secure, I am sure’. This was the first lie.
Perhaps, just perhaps, there was a metre between the edges of two tables, but if there was a person sat at each table your backs were perhaps 10-20cm apart. Inside, it looked even more tightly packed, so we were delighted to be offered a table outside. To be fair, all the waiting staff were wearing masks, but this presents another problem: in a busy and packed restaurant, a masked waiter has to lean in and raise his voice, and your reply also has to be a tad ‘shouty’. This didn’t feel like dining out was meant to, but the food began to arrive, there were a couple of beers, and the anxiety of living with a pandemic could be put aside for a bit.
The food was very good, the service started slow but then picked up, and we were enjoying a lively old time. Even my noble Guide Dog Millsey had been made to feel most welcome, and we were ‘helping out’, doing our bit for the country and the economy as a whole. Meat-stuffed heroes, if you will.
Sated and fit to burst, the bill was called for. I ventured to the little boy’s room, only to come back and find we had been robbed. The bill came to £120. One of the things we had noted was that the place offered a 20% discount to card-carrying students and to NHS workers.
When the bill arrived my wife presented said card and was told, ‘Sorry we aren’t accepting those in conjunction with the eat out discount.’ She showed the server the restaurant’s website, which clearly still stated that they should, but the server was adamant that no discounts applied, even for NHS workers.
To put this into context, the discount should have been £24, then Rishi’s £40 would have brought the the bill down to £56. We paid £80.
I chose not to do my quiet yet firm ‘Duty Manager, please’, as I have been given feedback by the family that although the words I use are decent and my delivery is calm and measured, I exude an air of menace and mayhem and they find this disturbing. So I took to social media and messaged them directly, then followed this up with an explanatory email.
I must advise, dear readers, I have yet to receive a response.
What really upsets me here is not just my own personal robbery, but that the actions of the government have given the owners a full restaurant on a Wednesday night. This wouldn’t have happened pre-Covid. They also don’t make their premises Covid-secure and still they want to cream that extra 20% off as pure profit.
I don’t know how well that will play out on social media and the like, and my lovely Editor has forbidden me from revealing the restaurant’s name…but if I don’t get an adequate response from them, I will let you all know how I got on next week.