MORE than 400,000 meals have been eaten across north Cumbria under the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

That equates to a total of almost £2.5m discount claimed on the scheme, which significantly boosted restaurant bookings during August and has helped protect thousands of jobs in the local hospitality industry.

Figures released yesterday by HRMC show that 75,000 meals were claimed in Carlisle, 121,000 in Workington, 81,000 in Copeland and 151,000 in Penrith and the Border.

The statistics, however, only relate to businesses that have less than 26 outlets, meaning the actual figures, including larger chains, will be much higher.

Business owners said it had brought a welcome boost after lockdown.

In Carlisle, family-run Sicilian restaurant Amatos was packed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday lunch times throughout August and the momentum has continued.

“It was good all round. It was busy. It felt like Christmas really last month. It kept the customers in and we’ve not had to let any of our full-timers go,” said owner and head chef Filippo Amato.

“We didn’t think it would keep going like this and we’ve had a lot of support from our regulars. As soon as we opened the doors they came back and they’ve continued to come back.

“When it does go quite they’re the ones that keep you going so a big thank you to all our regulars.

“August has been brilliant and it’s definitely helped us. If it had been dead and people stayed at home it would have been difficult to keep the doors open.

“It’s helped us and it’s helped the public and we’re very grateful for that.”

Paul McGee owns the Hungry Caterpillar in Workington, which also has branches in Whitehaven and Cockermouth. He said they were twice as busy thanks to local people eating out to help out and the discount scheme is something they have decided to continue.

Before lockdown, they didn’t do takeaways or open on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday nights but business has taken off so much six new members of staff have been hired and they plan to stay open on those weekday evenings.

“Deliveries had rocketed and it didn’t matter whether we were open or shut,” said Paul.

“You have to diversify and do different things. We never used to open on Saturday nights or Sunday days. We kept them for private function hire and were booked solid. We’ve lost out on the functions but what we’ve lost on them, we’ve gained on deliveries.

“In a bit of adversity it has been a good time for us. We’ve just had to do things differently. In business you got to find that way to survive.”