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'Eat out to help out' scheme offers 50% off meals out in August – who's in?

'Eat out to help out' scheme offers 50% off meals out in August – who's in?

The Government 'Eat out to help out' scheme for August has launched, giving 50% discounts up to £10 per person on sit-down meals out from Monday to Wednesday. It works at over 53,000 restaurants, cafés and pubs – including independents, many big chains such as McDonald's, Nando's and The Ivy Collection, and Michelin star restaurants such as The Angel at Hetton and Aquavit London.

Outlets that take part must apply the discount automatically on the entire bill except alcohol and service charges. You can get the discount as many times as you want and, what's more, it can be stacked with existing offers and vouchers.

Which restaurants, cafés and pubs are taking part? A new tool can help – though it has limitations

The Government has launched a new postcode checker to help you find eligible outlets near you, which has attracted plenty of attention. As it's far from perfect, it's best to employ a three-step plan to find out whether your chosen eatery is taking part:

Step 1: Check a list of big chains giving the discount, eg, Burger King, McDonald's, Nando's, Subway and The Ivy. The Government has published a list of the biggest chains taking part, many of which we also list below. Confusingly, it says these chains generally WON'T appear in the tool (in step 2).

Yet even this list itself could be incomplete. So to help fill in some gaps we've compiled our own compendium of restaurants, which includes chains listed by the Government and those who've told us independently that they're taking part. But given both lists are fluid, it's worth checking each of them as they could yield different results at different times.

  • Here are 15 of the biggest chains we've found that are taking part, and below is a longer list of others we've spotted that are participating.

    All Bar One Bella Italia Burger King
    Carluccio's Costa Coffee Five Guys
    Greene King Harvester KFC
    McDonald's Nando's Pizza Hut
    Starbucks Subway Wetherspoon

    Here are some of the other chains we've seen are taking part:

    • A.F. Blakemore
    • Accor UK
    • Apple Green
    • Aquavit
    • Atalian Servest
    • Atlas Hotels
    • Baker's + Baristas
    • Bannatyne Health Club
    • Bao
    • Bar & Block
    • Bar + Grills
    • BaxterStorey
    • Beefeater
    • Bel & The Dragon
    • Benugo
    • Bermondsey Pub
    • Bill's
    • Black Sheep Coffee
    • Blue Diamond
    • Boparan Restaurant Group
    • Bourne Leisure
    • Brains
    • Brasserie Blanc
    • The Breakfast Club
    • Brewdog
    • Brewers Fayre
    • Brewhouse and Kitchen
    • Browns
    • Brunning & Price
    • Burger & Lobster
    • Busaba
    • Butlins
    • Buzz Bingo
    • Byron
    • Café Rouge
    • Caffe Nero
    • Castle pubs
    • Centre Parcs
    • CH&CO
    • Chiquito
    • The Cinnamon Club
    • Coast to Coast
    • Coco Ichibanya
    • Coffee#1
    • Company of Cooks
    • Compass Group
    • Comptoir Libanais
    • Cookhouse & Pub
    • The Cornish Bakery
    • Cote Brasserie
    • Cotswolds Inns & Hotels
    • Creams Cafe
    • Crussh
    • D&D London
    • Darwin Brasserie
    • David Lloyd Clubs
    • Deep Blue Fish & Chips
    • Dishoom
    • Dobbies Garden Centre
    • Doubletree by Hilton
    • Dunelm
    • Eat
    • Elior
    • Ed's Diner
    • Ember Inns
    • Euro Garages
    • Everyman
    • Fire Jacks
    • Fishworks
    • Flat Iron
    • Foundry Project
    • Franco Manca
    • Freedom Leisure
    • Frankie & Benny's
    • Fridays (formerly TGI Fridays)
    • Fuller's pubs
    • G1
    • Gail's Bakeries
    • Garfunkel's
    • Giggling Squid
    • Giraffe
    • Gourmet Burger Kitchen
    • Great British Pubs
    • Grovesnor Casinos
    • Gusto
    • Hall & Woodhouse
    • Hard Rock Cafe
    • Harry Ramsden
    • Haven
    • Hollywood Bowl
    • Honest Burgers
    • Honi Poke
    • Hot Stone
    • Hydes
    • The Ivy Collection
    • Joe & The Juice
    • Joe's Kitchen
    • Joseph Holt
    • Jurys Inn
    • JW Lees
    • Kew Green Hotels
    • Krispy Kreme
    • Laine
    • Las Iguanas
    • Leon
    • The Lost & Found
    • M&S Cafe
    • Macdonald Hotels
    • Maidenhead Spice
    • Marston's
    • McMullen
    • MeatLiquor
    • Mecca
    • Miller & Carter
    • Miso Noodle Bar
    • Mitchells & Butlers
    • Morrisons
    • Moto
    • The National Trust
    • New World Trading Company
    • Nicholson's
    • Oak Tree
    • Olive
    • O'Neill's
    • Orchid Pubs
    • Park Holidays
    • Patisserie Valerie
    • Patty and Bun
    • Paul Bakery
    • Pho
    • Pitcher & Piano
    • Pizza Express
    • Powerleague
    • Premier Inn
    • Premium Country Pubs
    • Pret A Manger
    • Prezzo
    • Punch
    • Raj Douth
    • Raj Gate
    • The Real Greek
    • Revere Pub Company
    • Revolution Bars Group
    • Roadchef
    • Selfridges & Co
    • Shack-fuyu
    • Shepherd Neame
    • Sizzling Pubs
    • Slim Chickens
    • Slug & Lettuce
    • Spice Garden
    • St Austell Brewery
    • Stonehouse Pizza & Carvery
    • Table Table
    • Taco Bell
    • Team Sport
    • Tenpin
    • Tim Hortons
    • Tony Macaroni
    • Tortilla
    • Turtle Bay
    • Vacherin
    • Village Hotels
    • Vintage Inns
    • Viva Italia
    • Wadworth
    • Wagamama
    • Wahaca
    • Walkabout
    • Wasabi
    • Welcome Break
    • Whitbread Inns
    • Wildwood
    • Wimpy
    • Yo! Sushi
    • Young's
    • Zizzi

Bear in mind that even if a chain is on either list, some branches may not participate, especially if they are part of a franchise, though chains we've spoken to seem to be offering the discount widely. Note that on the Government list some chains are listed under their parent company, eg, Harvester isn't on it, but owner Mitchells & Butlers is.

Step 2: Use the Government tool to check which other restaurants in a five-mile radius are participating. As we say above, it won't include the biggies, plus it only shows up to 100 search results for any postcode, which can mean you get an incomplete list in built-up areas.

Use the Eat out to help out tool to see nearby restaurants taking part

You may find some gems. When we checked in central Birmingham, we found lots of independents and the local branch of TV chef Gino D'Acampo's upmarket 'My Restaurant' chain. Elsewhere, we even spotted a few Michelin-starred restaurants, including The Angel at Hetton in North Yorkshire, and Brat, Leroy and Aquavit in London.

Step 3: To be really sure, check direct with the restaurant. Unfortunately, the list and tool above aren't perfect – if you haven't found a certain restaurant, that doesn't mean it definitely isn't taking part. And even if a biggie you want to visit is on the list, there's a small chance it won't be participating. So to be sure, check the restaurant's website or call to check.

Promotional posters, like the ones below, will be displayed in the windows of participating establishments:

Some restaurants are removing the £10 cap

It's worth noting some chains have announced they're boosting the 50% discount by effectively 'removing' the £10 cap, which means you're able to save more than £10 per person per meal (though above £10 per person per meal it'll be the restaurant, not the taxpayer, picking up the tab).

Restaurants which have confirmed they'll be doing this include BeefeaterBrewers FayreCarluccio'sEd's Diner, DishoomGiraffe and Pitcher & Piano.

Some big chains had already slashed menu prices following the Government's hospitality sector VAT cut, which came into effect on Wednesday 15 July, including Costa, Greggs, and Nando's reducing prices by 12.5%. See who is and isn't passing on the recent VAT cut.

Can other discounts & vouchers be used alongside the scheme?

Yes – you CAN stack the 'Eat out to help out' discount on top of other offers. It applies to both:

  • One-off vouchers and in-house offers that would normally apply. The Government says outlets which choose to take part must apply the 50% off "fully across their menu" – and on top of any discounts, meal deals or vouchers they offer that day. So if a participating establishment doesn't wish to allow offers to be stacked, it'll have to axe its own offers while the scheme's running, ie, all day Monday to Wednesday throughout August.

    However, so far we've seen fewer standard deals in general, eg, 2for1s, or 33% off, than we normally would, which could be because of the Eat out to help out discount. See which current restaurant deals you can use with the Government's 50% off.

  • Membership discount schemes. Multi-restaurant discount schemes can be used in conjunction with 'Eat out to help out' as well. Tastecard told us its usual 50% off or 2for1 discounts will continue to run throughout August, so when dining in at Tastecard's partnered restaurants which are participating in the scheme, you should be able to stack the usual Tastecard discount with the Government's 50% off. Likewise, Gourmet Society up to 50% off, and Meerkat Meals 2for1 discounts will operate as normal throughout August, the companies say. The same goes for up to 50% off with Dine Club - and our MSE Blagged deal currently gets you a free two-month Dine Club membership (normally £10ish).

The Government's 50% discount will be applied AFTER any other discounts. So for example, if you had a 20% off restaurant voucher, that would come off your bill first, and you'd then get a further 50% off whatever is left (from eligible items), up to a total discount of £10 per person.

However it's worth bearing in mind that we've seen a few places which aren't quite following the rules - for example, we've seen some pubs which aren't allowing the scheme to be used in conjunction with other offers or on their whole menu, even though they should be. So if in doubt, check with the venue to avoid being caught out. 

How busy will the restaurants be? Should I book ahead?

We've heard from some chains including Carluccio's and Wahaca that they've seen a marked increase in bookings since the scheme began, while Pizza Hut shared with us that it had dealt with a massive 300,000 discount redemptions on day one. All say that walk-ins are available but table bookings are advisable, especially if you're after a specific time or you've got a large group.

While it's always safer to book a table rather than chance a walk-in, with so many eateries taking part in the scheme, we reckon you could always visit your next closest participating location if your first choice is full.