The Eat Out to Help Out scheme officially ends on bank holiday Monday but some restaurants in Salisbury have benefited so much from it, they have decided to extend it.

Allium and The Wig and Quill will be offering 50 per cent off on food and soft drinks throughout the whole of September.

The two venues say the scheme has been a "great incentive" to get people back out and support the hospitality industry and will be carrying on offering discounts off their own back.

Tim Tonkin, owner of Allium on Ox Row, said: "It's been really, really good. We've been fully booked every evening on Tuesday and Wednesday since we reopened. We've had to turn away so many people as a result of the interest and demand for tables which is why we're continuing into September for those who haven't had a chance to come."

Next month, the scheme will run with the same terms and conditions.

"It's going to be exactly the same, just this time we're funding it ourselves," added Tim.

Although discounted food at the start of the week has resulted in weekends being a bit quieter, the venue has been as busy as it was pre-pandemic.

Without it, the recovery process for pubs and restaurants would have been "very, very slow and difficult".

Asked whether the government's scheme, which costs millions of pounds to fund, was justified, Tim said: "Some people have worked really hard during the pandemic and coming out for dinner is a nice reward for them, a bit of normality that they haven't had in four months.

"I understand people might be upset money has been put aside but the hospitality industry employs close to three million people. Without help, that's potentially three million families going hungry."

At The Wig and Quill, on New Street, the scheme will also run unchanged throughout the whole of next month.

"Whatever the government did has been super successful, it's brought people out in droves," said manager Mark Stokes.

"Ninety-five per cent have been very understanding of the situation faced by the industry in regards to social distancing and stuff. We have had the occasional grump complaining they had to wait slightly longer for their food or people trying to turn up without booking but on the whole people were very understanding."

Unsurprisingly, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday have been the busiest days of the week, with families, groups of teenagers and elderly residents all making the most of cheaper food and drinks.

"It was an insane incentive. It's guaranteed people's jobs albeit in the short-term and given new people the opportunity to come and try out the Wig and Quill and try out our other venues and hopefully we'll be able to retain those customers."

Other venues extending the scheme or offering discounts are:

  • The Avon Brewery - Castle Street
  • The Cathedral Hotel - Milford Street
  • The Chapter House - St John’s Street (until September 9, food only)
  • The New Inn – New Street (food only)
  • The Old Ale & Coffee House - Crane Street (40 per cent off, up to £10 per person, food only)
  • Well Natural - Queen Street (plus Fridays)

Diners are encouraged to book a table to avoid disappointment and are advised to check terms and conditions directly with the restaurant.

Robin McGowan, Chief Executive of Salisbury BID, said: "The Eat Out to Help Out scheme has been hugely successful in helping our restaurants start to recover from the coronavirus lockdown, and this support from government has been appreciated by businesses.

"Many of our hospitality businesses told us they were fully booked every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and that many customers had to be turned down.

“It’s been warming to see so many local people supporting and enjoying our abundance of restaurants in the city centre.

"Salisbury has felt very vibrant throughout August and we’re delighted a number of restaurants have taken the initiative to continue with the scheme throughout September. We hope the local people of Salisbury will continue to support these businesses.”