HOPES are high that customers will flock back to pubs and restaurants across the region following the launch of a government discount scheme on Monday.
The Eat Out to Help Out scheme gives customers a 50 per cent discount on eat-in food and non-alcoholic drink orders up to the value of £10.
It operates from Monday to Wednesday throughout August and is designed to offer the food industry a post-lockdown boost in trade.
Tony Radu, manager of the Uno Momento Italian restaurant in Darlington, said it was too early to predict its impact, but the venue was experiencing an exceptionally busy Monday lunchtime.
He said: "I think it is good, we have been really busy at the moment, a lot of people will take advantage of the scheme.
"We welcome it, definitely, it (lockdown) has been really hard for everybody so this is hopefully going to help businesses, which is good."
The Pennyweight pub, which overlooks Darlington's market square, was also enjoying a good Monday lunchtime trade.
Manager Chermaine Wood said: "We have had a few in today, the scheme has only just started but we have had a good few bookings today so it is going to go alright I think."
Over on Darlington's Clark's Yard, Mouhyedin Alkhalil - known as the 'Falafel Fella' - said business was quiet on Monday but he hopes that as more people get to know about the discount, the more will come back.
He said: "I haven't seen as many as I thought but I think once people know exactly what the situation is then it should get busier.
"I have been telling people about it because people don't seem to know it's available."
Mr Alkhalil said that he was glad he was able to offer a delivery service during lockdown to keep his business afloat.
In Northallerton, Graham Bell, the manager of the town's BID group (Business Improvement District) said traders were feeling positive.
He said: "I think it is a really good scheme and lots of businesses in the town have got involved with it."
Meanwhile in County Durham, Zak Amed of Babul’s of Barnard Castle said they'd seen an increase in bookings. He added: "I think it’s a great idea it benefits the customer and the business.
"An excellent scheme by the government, it will help restaurants get the extra revenue they desperately need."
Sam Zair of Sam Zair’s café, Bishop Auckland said: “It has been busy.
"We had one gentleman who came for his breakfast this morning and then came back for his lunch.
"One or two customers didn’t know about the offer but were chuffed because they got a good deal.
"So I can honestly say that this government scheme will make a difference to the hospitality sector which is a good thing.”
Cheryl Jeffery at the Station Hotel in Bishop Auckland described the scheme as 'fantastic' although it had been a quiet day for them.
While a spokesperson from the Red Alligator pub in Bishop Auckland said: “We have had a massive increase in booking and footfall, thoughts on the scheme seem to be extremely positive fingers crossed it will continue through August.”