Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out To Help Out Scheme And J D Wetherspoon Should Have Been A Marriage Made In Culinary Heaven, What Went Wrong?

On Monday August 31, the Eat Out To Help Out scheme comes to an end, and judging by the success of it, there’ll be families up and down the country mourning the loss of their dinner for a tenner on a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

According to figures released today, it’s accounted for 64 million meals claimed in the last three weeks and no doubt Monday will be a bumper day for restaurants up and down the country as hungry Brits rush to grab a bargain burger before they revert to full price.

According to restaurant booking website OpenTable, the number of customers at UK restaurants between Monday to Wednesday last week was 61% higher than last year. Seems Sunak Specials have proved popular and never more so it seems than at pub chain, J D Wetherspoon, founded by Tim Martin.

Now, for all you ‘Spoons’ fans, of course you’ll know that Tuesday night is Steak Club night. So, not to be a victim of FOMO, I ventured down to my local branch to sample the unique Spoons experience before the Sunak Specials were taken off the menu.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t eat red meat that often, especially steaks, but when I do, I look forward to it immensely. However, in my experience, expectation is nearly always completely sated or left in a sad sinewy state on the side of the plate. But on this occasion, it never even got that far. Because on Steak Club night, Spoons had managed to pull off something quite remarkable, even by their own standards; they ran out of steaks.

Not a sirloin, fillet or rump in the house. Nicht. Zero. Now, this didn’t come as quite the disappointment you might imagine, because frankly, I’m not convinced that they would really do justice to a medium rare fillet.

Running out of steaks on Steak Club night might of course go some way to explaining why Spoons announced this week that despite the Chancellor’s incentive to get us back out there and eating, they will make a loss this year against a profit of £104 million last year.

A spokesman said, “Sales have gradually improved, with a rapid acceleration recently, largely due to subsidised food, coffee and soft drinks in the early part of the week. The company nonetheless expects a period of more subdued sales once the scheme for subsidised early-week meals and drinks ends”. And that doesn’t bode well for a business saddled with debts of £825 million.

But that wasn’t on my mind as I hurriedly finished my glass of red wine (which by the way, was far too young to be out on its own) to go in search of that elusive steak, because whilst doing so, I idly flicked through the summer edition of the imaginatively titled, ‘Wetherspoonnews’, their in-house magazine.

And what struck me was that in amongst all the usual good news stories found in such publications, it devoted not one but two entire pages to ‘press corrections’.

Not only that but elsewhere, there were two more pages of the same, under the heading of ‘Tim’s Viewpoint’. This was where Martin chose to debunk stories and accusations which have appeared over the last few months, describing one as “complete cobblers”, and subsequently concluding, “Even in our murky and compromised world, the truth will out”.

Which all left me wondering, to which world was he referring? As for me, all I wanted was a medium rare, but even that, it seems, was too much to ask.

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