Help for Households

We at Complete Licensing are not political animals and neither, we suspect, are our clients, our website visitors, pretty much the whole of the hospitality industry. Don’t have the time; don’t have the inclination. The days of the pub landlord leaning across his pumps and holding forth on the state of the nation have receded into the past as surely as the crown stamp on a pint glass. Oh, hold on a minute…

Anyway, with no party-political axe to grind we have to applaud some of the Government’s measures designed to mitigate the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic over the past couple of years: ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ and the extended furloughing of staff are two examples.

But our apolitical viewpoint also permits us to criticise where we see good reason – and the Government’s latest urgings have done just that. In an apparent ‘seizing the coat tails’ move, we have seen the ‘Help for Households’ scheme launched to great fanfare. The fact that supermarkets have been promoting their ‘cut-price kids meals in restaurants’ initiative for weeks now doesn’t seem to have been an issue. If you believed the publicity, the Government has driven forward this and other deals (like free or reduced cost West End theatre tickets for kids with a paying adult).

We are sooo not getting into the question of veracity here, but what does concern us is the bit of ‘Help for Households’ which urges pubs and restaurants to sign up to offer cut-price meals for children.

Putting to one side the question of whether families struggling to make ends meet can afford to eat out in the first place, let’s look at this suggestion from the licence-holder’s point of view.

Anyone thinking of slashing the cost of meals (even kids’ portions) has a few things to think about:

  • Hospitality is an industry nearing crisis point due to the frightening rise in the cost of produce, energy and fuel.
  • Profit margins are being cut further by the need to pay staff higher wages to cope with the increase in inflation etc.
  • Congratulations if you have a full complement of staff because very few hospitality venues do – and it’s not for the want of trying. They’re just not out there.

So, unless there are Government subsidies coming down the line – and there has been, as yet, no mention of them – pub and restaurant owners are not going to be able to offer the discounts to the families who are probably not going to be able to afford meals out in the first place. ‘Help for Households’ looks, from here, like another headline-grabbing slogan without much substance. A bit like one of those aerated hors d’oeuvres beloved of celebrity chefs a few years ago: It’s one bite and you’re left wondering whether you’ve actually digested anything.