Hungry Dundonians in search of a bargain led to the city recording the largest footfall boost in Scotland from the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.
A study which tracks city centre footfall using mobile phone data reveals Dundee economy has had a significant shot in the arm from the Government stimulus designed to encourage people back to restaurants.
The initiative offers people 50% off the value of their food and non-alcoholic drinks, up to £10 per person, on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout August.
Dundee had a 21% increase in footfall at the start of the week in August when compared to July.
This compares to 14% in Edinburgh and 8% in Glasgow. Aberdeen’s footfall fell by 3% due to its local lockdown.
The UK average increase in footfall was 8%. Dundee’s footfall rise ranked fourth in the UK with Bournemouth leading the table.
Total city centre footfall in Dundee is now at 84% of pre-lockdown levels compared to a UK city average of 56%.
Andrew Carter, the chief executive of Centre for Cities, which carried out the analysis, said: “Good weather and the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme have helped increase the number of visitors to city and town centres.
“But a question mark remains over whether the footfall increase that we have seen this summer can be sustained into the autumn without the good weather and UK Government incentive – particularly with so many people still working from home.
“Shops, restaurants and pubs face an uncertain future while office workers remain at home.
“So, in the absence of a big increase in people returning to the office, the UK Government must set out how it will support the people working in city centre retail and hospitality who could well find themselves out of a job by Christmas.”
Since the scheme launched on August 3, Costa said its sales were up 20%, while burger specialist Five Guys said their sales were up 60% on the days the offer applies.
Debenhams Cafe has expanded its seating area outside the main store, Chopstix has reported several new customers and Bibble Milkshake Bar said its takings were up 25% at the start of the week.
Lauren Runciman, owner of the Giddy Goose on Perth Road, said: “It’s been absolutely amazing. There are huge numbers of bookings coming in throughout the week.
“We were already quite busy when we reopened from lockdown but we still had a massive boom in business because of this.”
Lauren believes the scheme has also been beneficial in encouraging people to get back out to try to pick up where they left off before the pandemic.
She added: “People seem a little bit more relaxed, I think it’s good for them to get back to normal, or at least some form of normality.”
While the scheme has led to a boom in business in the first half of the week, weekends have still to return to pre-pandemic levels.
Lauren added: “I think a lot of people are waiting now to come out at the start of the week to save money, which I understand – I’d be doing the same thing.”
Ross Turriff, owner of Jessie’s Kitchen in Broughty Ferry, said the scheme has “certainly helped out”.
He added: “From our point of view last week would have been busy anyway, with it being the last week before schools go back, so with the Eat Out to Help Out scheme it was extremely busy.
“The response has been amazing – we were full on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.”
However, despite the UK Government’s calls to get people back to the office, the number of people returning to work in Scotland’s largest cities and towns has hardly increased since the end of June.
The persistently low numbers of workers going back into city centres reinforces the concerns for the future of shops, cafes, restaurants and bars that depend on office workers for custom.
The Centre for Cities study showed just a 5% increase in worker footfall between the weeks of June 29 and August 3.