Published: 11:20, 05 August 2020
| Updated: 11:27, 05 August 2020
High Street restaurants, pubs and cafes were given a boost this week as the Eat Out to Help Out scheme was rolled out.
More than 30 Dartford town food outlets are signed up to the government-backed programme.
The scheme is available during August and allows customers to enjoy half-price meals and non-alcoholic drinks, capped at a discount of £10 per person.
Eat Out to Help Out applies to eat-in food and drink on Monday to Wednesdays.
Gurjit Randhawa, who runs Esquires Coffee in Dartford High Street, said the scheme was proving to be quite successful after some initial confusion.
He said: "I think yesterday people were a bit unsure that it had actually started. We have got posters up, so people know."
But business was now picking up with people coming in and asking directly for the offer, he added.
And Gurjit is starting to see a younger client base attracted to some of his special cooked breakfasts which include vegan options.
Speaking a day after the scheme's launch, Jo Bayliss, who co-owns sandwich shop the New York Deli in Dartford Market Place with brother Matt Smith, said many people were still not aware of it.
Their business has experienced mixed fortunes after launching in November only to be forced to shut just five months later.
"With roadworks outside and then the lockdown, we have been hit particularly hard," Jo said.
"Trade is really inconsistent – we have really bad days and really good days. There is no rhyme or reason.
"We are nowhere near back to pre-lockdown. But I don't think yesterday was too bad."
While she had not seen a sudden surge in demand for the scheme just yet, she was hopeful the added advertising would entice new customers in.
She added: "I think we are planning on next week adding an afternoon tea which will be £10 a head but only £5 in August."
Elsewhere in the High Street, husband and wife team Andy and Sue Purkis said the scheme had provided a lifeline for the Grade II-listed Royal Victoria and Bull Hotel.
Manager Andy said: "It has made a hell of a difference. We were getting about four or five [tables] then yesterday we were getting about 24.
"Prior to lockdown, we were doing this on a regular basis."
Known locally as the Bull and Vic, the pub and restaurant is the town’s oldest inn at around 400 years old but has been having a tough time getting punters in of late.
Andy believes asking for track and trace information has actively driven some customers away.
The 59-year-old publican said: "You wouldn't believe what is going on.
"We have had people come in and don't want to give their name and number."
Others, he said, refused to use hand sanitiser, or booked tables and didn't turn up.
"We don't stand for it," he said. "We won't let people in unless they give us these details," adding the information was held strictly for these purposes only.
"We are big enough to social distance. Every table is two metres apart and we have about 40 tables."
The pub and restaurant now has a large sign outside advertising the Eat Out to Help Out offers and Andy hopes the initial interest will continue.
"We are not the same Vic and Bull everybody remembers," he added.
"But I can assure you we are doing everything possible, all the staff wear masks and gloves."
Click here for a full list of places signed up to the Eat Out to Help Out scheme in Dartford.