'Eat out to help out' shouldn't apply to big brands

'Eat out to help out' shouldn't apply to big brands

The hospitality sector has really struggled during 2020. I commend the government for doing something about it.

I also commend all the businesses - including giants like KFC, and motorway service area provider Moto, who have agreed to turn their tax cuts into cheaper prices, rather than taking the additional cash.

In doing that, the system becomes rather unfair. What about all the smaller restaurants who need that cash just to pay their bills?

There is no way around that. No matter how hard 2020 has been for big businesses, it has been even tougher for smaller ones.

That's why Motorway Services Online has pledged to do more to promote independent roadside diners. Some of them are struggling, and every customer really does make a difference.

I don't doubt that those independent diners will be grateful for the financial support and encouragement the government has offered them. But these places also know that they can't compete with the big fast food chains on price or publicity.

Busy restaurant
Cheaper food is good for everyone, but wouldn't it be better if it helped places that need it most?

If you had told people they could get 50% off a meal but only if they try a new restaurant, many people would have done so. It would have been a real boon for small retailers.

Instead we have told people that they can get 50% off almost any meal they like, and most people are going to head for Subway and McDonald's.

It's not just a shame, it's worrying that the government can spend so much money on subsidising out two multinationals who are doing just fine.

As I said before, I don't begrudge any of these big chains for taking an opportunity to promote themselves. In fact I'm grateful to those who have chosen to pass on discounts to their customers.

And perhaps the small amount of tax charged on these reduced-price McDonald's meals will be what it takes to restart the economy.

It just leaves me uneasy that, as we are told to "shop local", there is no equivalent campaign for hospitality.

Instead it falls on me to tell you: I'm a sucker for big brands, they are usually cheap, convenient and something you crave. But when you get the chance, please visit a restaurant which really appreciates your custom.

Tedious about the author bit

Travel historian, presenter, producer. I love the places people pass through along their journey.

I research and write about how our need to get around continues to shape our world through roads, railways, airports and whole new towns.

My thoughts and/or research have been published by the likes of Truck & Driver, BBC local radio, Daily Express, The Guardian, Mail Online and The Independent (detail).

I can't tell you how many toll booths I've been through. But it's a lot of toll booths.

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Any similarities with real-life events or wealthy international firms is probably coincidental. No products endorsed. I'm powered by Monster Munch.

© 2021 Johnathan Randall.