Food sales dipped by more than 60% week-on-week on Monday 7 September following the end of the government's Eat Out to Help Out scheme at the end of August. However, sales remained 27% above those seen in 2019.
The Tuesday and Wednesday (8 and 9 September) also saw year-on-year increases of 18% and 16% respectively, according to figures from CGA.
Many operators have chosen to subsidise extensions to the scheme through September and beyond in some cases, which is thought to have contributed to the year-on-year uptick.
Continued discounting has divided opinion among operators. Steak group Hawksmoor dismissed the extension. Co-founder Will Beckett told The Caterer: "During Eat Out to Help Out, particularly that last bank holiday, we were absolutely mobbed. But I think it's fair to say trade has returned on those days to pretty normal levels, which we would have seen just before Eat Out to Help Out, which were reasonably good. Thursday to Sunday has held up absolutely fine at Hawksmoor.
"I think long-term and even short-term it's been the right decision. I'm convinced that there's a real danger of devaluing what restaurants and pubs do by discounting and there's a risk of customers and operators getting hooked on discounts. We've seen that happen before 10 years ago with the financial crisis, so I'm sure it's the right thing."
Coconut Tree, which runs six Sri Lankan restaurants in Bristol, Cardiff, Oxford, Bournemouth and Cheltenham, is extending the Eat Out To Help Out discount until the end of January 2021.
Brand director Anna Garrod told The Caterer: "I think Eat Out To Help Out has been great for world cuisines that people are less familiar with, as people have decided to give them a go. I think they thought, ‘if I don't like it, it won't cost me as much'. So we've had an incredible amount of new customers. We wanted to introduce people to our food and that's happened. We thought there was no better way to keep doing that than to continue the scheme.
"Even at the start of September, around 50% of our customers on Monday to Wednesday were new business, and that's even in our Cheltenham restaurant that's been open for three years. On weekends you couldn't get a table for Friday or Saturday night, and it's still that way."
Jonathan Jones, CGA's director of client service, said the government scheme had undoubtedly caused momentum for dining out, but said this could be threatened as the government continues to discuss further restrictions on the industry.