TWO York restaurants are footing the bill to run their own discount scheme to thank diners who returned in droves when lockdown eased.

Lucia and the Cut & Craft were inundated during the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, feeding 27,552 diners at their York, Harrogate and Beverley restaurants from Mondays to Wednesdays in August.

The incentive enabled operators to claim back the 50 per cent discount offered on meals and soft drinks from the Government, and was a lifeline for many. Numerous operators have launched their own schemes to continue the momentum.

Darioush Shahidi, operations manager at Lucia and Cut & Craft, said the uptake had taken them all by surprise. “We didn’t realise how much demand was actually there and how much people wanted to be back out, dining, socialising.

“In this sector, we rely on people wanting to come out and have a great time socialising. It’s so reassuring. We spent so long during the lockdown evaluating how we would make the business work, what adaptations we would make. When we reopened on July 4 we didn’t know how it would go. Then to have a month like that in August was worth all the sleepless nights.”

Darioush said they had welcomed back a lot of locals and regular customers, along with staycationers from out of town coming into York.

He said the high demand had led them to continue with their own offer to thank supporters and give more people an opportunity to take advantage of the discount. It has also enabled them to offer more work to staff on flexible contracts.

“So many people weren’t able to take advantage of the offer, because they weren’t able to get a table or the queue times or wait times were so excessive. People were booking tables so far in advance. At the beginning of the month we were nearly booked out at the end of the month.”

The 50 per cent offer, up to £10 per person for food and soft drinks, runs from noon-5pm Monday to Wednesday at Lucia's, and from 11am -5pm at Cut & Craft, with some dishes exempt.

Since the lockdown some operators have closed, while a number of new venues have opened such as Tomahawk Steakhouse in the city.

Darioush said: “We have always been quite lucky that Lucia and Cut and Craft are popular brands and restaurants. Competition is always there. Everyone has had so much time off during the furlough period where companies have put together such amazing strategies and powerful marketing campaigns for when they get going, so now the competition is stronger than ever.

“Everybody is fighting for that customer now.

“For us, it’s a case of doing what we do best as a brand. The reason we were popular in the first place is because we offer a good quality product at a fair price.

“We had done our refurbishment and had only been open six weeks when we had to close. So we had invested all this money into York, local labourers and different design companies.

“We are back open, we are a safe business and restaurant to dine with. It’s a brand people can trust. We have put extensive measures in place; you’ll see hand sanitiser stations located throughout the restaurant with very clear signage.”

Another change for the restaurants is that people can now book a table from 5pm. The usual walk-in policy remains in place for lunch.

Darioush said Lucia was also taking bookings for drinks tables from 10pm onwards, mainly on Friday and Saturday.

“What was highlighted when we reopened was that people still want to go out on Friday and Saturday night yet there’s people queueing in the street in the pouring rain, having to wait for people to leave so they can go and get a table. We spotted the gap quite quickly and made our tables bookable.”