By Scott Wright

THE Eat Out to Help Out scheme offer drove an improved profit performance in the hospitality industry in August, compared with the month of July. But the sector’s profitability in August was still well adrift of the same month of last year because of coronavirus, new research has found.

Eat Out to Help Out offered discounts of 50 per cent, up to a maximum of £10 per person, in participating restaurants on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in August. It is widely credited with boosting hospitality businesses, which have endured a steep downturn in trade as a result of the pandemic.

The impact of the discount scheme is reflected in the latest Opinium-Cebr Business Distress Tracker. According to the research, profits in the hospitality sector were down by 21% in August because of the pandemic. However, the position was found to have improved from mid-July, when profits were down 26%, and on April, when they were down 29%.

Business sentiment improved on the back of the better profit performance, the survey found, with 39% of companies describing trading conditions as good in the latest tracker. This compares with 34% in August.

James Endersby, chief Executive at Opinium, said: “It is promising to see a reduction in the proportion of workers whose salary and wages rely on government funds through the furlough scheme as we approach the end of the job retention scheme. Once the scheme comes to an end next month, it is paramount to understand what the outlook is for those workers who are coming off the scheme.

“As this figure continues to decrease throughout the remainder of September and into October, it will be essential to monitor the proportion of workers facing reduced hours and reduced pay well beyond the end of lockdown and re-opening of the economy. The worst-case scenario will, of course, be rising unemployment across the country.”