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Eat Out to Help Out: First week of government scheme sees numbers triple at some Kent restaurants

Never before have so many people shuffled past the faux hedge threshold and through the grand old front door of Oliver's Bar & Restaurant.

"Everyone wins except Boris," exclaims the venues designated 'people person', Taylor Brett, as he reflects on a bumper start to the week brought about by the government's Eat Out to Help Out Scheme.

Taylor Betts of Oliver's Bar & Restaurant
Taylor Betts of Oliver's Bar & Restaurant

Prawn and avocado cocktails and slabs of steak have been served up to double the amount of diners as on any normal Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday night at this Rochester High Street fronting eatery.

"We've got nothing to complain about," said Taylor, "We win because we get more customers and we get more money; the customers get to eat out for a cheaper price. We've been up 100% during the week, Monday to Wednesday. Before it was 10 to 15 a day, now it's 30-40 plus. We're having to turn people away because we've got no more room.

"Corona wasn't nice to anyone but after we came back we had to adjust, and now we're floating along. No business is going to be raking in money but we're doing better."

Things are even better up the road at Brettington's Steak and Lobster House.

Assistant manager Sofia Eljeaaidi said: "We've got a lot more people coming in. It's about triple the amount of covers at the moment. We're lucky because we had been busy and we're quite popular anyway, so we've not been affected so much, but definitely Monday to Wednesday we are making more money because we're doing more covers.

"People are very pleased. We've had quite a few phone calls asking if we're doing it and they're very happy, because people have been struggling to afford to eat out.

"We're just grateful for all of it."

At Quills, there was further evidence of success, as it was too hectic to talk - "Eat Out to Help Out has made us quite busy!" said a rushed staff member.

But it's not been plain sailing for everyone involved, head coast bound along the M2 and eventually you'll come across an exasperated Richard Gleeson.

The assistant manager at Cullins Yard, Dover, said the guidelines for operating the scheme make it very difficult for busy restaurants to administer it.

Cullins Yard in Dover
Cullins Yard in Dover

For his team it proved too much and they pulled out - but their listing has still not been removed from the official website despite a request.

He said: "When we signed up to it we found out the guidelines and found out it's unsuitable for us.

"Where it doesn't include the whole bill, the till systems - and we have quite a good one - can't do it. We have to manually do it which slows everything down.

"We trialled yesterday and I can tell you now it's not a good thing.

"It's too difficult to administrate.

"The government thought it would work well but they've probably never worked in this industry.

"It might suit a smaller place but we were busy enough anyway."

For now his story thankfully appears to be the exception, businesses in Dartford were reaping the rewards and in Gravesend one delighted patron declared weekdays were the new Saturdays.

Queues outside Wagamama in Maidstone
Queues outside Wagamama in Maidstone

It was a similar story in Maidstone where the scheme seemed to be if anything too popular.

Excited diners were queueing outside Wagamama on the second evening as well as other Earl Street restaurants. The Muggleton Inn Wetherspoon on High Street was also bustling.

Here's where in Kent you can take advantage of the scheme, which gives you 50% off order per head up to £10 throughout August.

For more news on big brands and good places to enjoy a tasty bite, head to our Eat, Drink, Shop section

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