Restaurants and cafés in Norfolk and Waveney say they will continue to offer discounts when the Eat Out to Help Out scheme comes to a close as they fight to keep customers dining out.

On bank holiday Monday, the government’s half-price scheme finishes after what for most businesses has been an incredibly busy month.

For many, it has been the shot in the arm chancellor Rishi Sunak intended - so much so that several are planning to run their own offers throughout September to keep momentum up.

At the Bird in Hand, in Wreningham, owner Alex Brake said while it had at times been a “shock to the system”, it had been a success.

“It’s been fantastic, Mr Sunak has done a fine thing for the industry,” he said. “The hospitality industry is one of the hardest hit and employs more than three million people in the UK. He needed to do something.

“We have had to turn away people in their droves. We don’t like to do that but we have to keep our consistency and quality.”

Moving forward, he said the restaurant would be returning to its takeaway menu, which was a “roaring success” during lockdown, with 7,000 takeaways completed in 12 weeks, and would also introduce new heated marquees in its garden.

“We are very lucky the local community has supported us so well, if we didn’t have that takeaway service we may have had to close our doors,” he said.

But the team also plan to continue a discount scheme throughout September to keep up momentum, and hope to offer something similar in October.

Though Mr Brake said final details were being confirmed, he said on participating days they would offer diners a free glass of wine - or soft drink - with their meal.

“We want to thank people who have come out and supported us, and want to buy people a drink,” he said.

“We need to be realistic in that we are still in a pandemic. We are in a bubble which will pop.”

One criticism of the scheme has been that, for many places, August is an already busy month.

Some have said it would have been better in a quieter month, and that being in August risks a drop-off in trade in September when children return to school and the weather starts to cool.

To maintain custom, several restaurants are planning to continue the same 50pc off deal, including Gem on Riverside Road in Norwich and Erpingham House, on Tombland.

Managing director of Erpingham Loui Blake said it would apply to food only but, that other details would remain the same.

“It’s been absolutely amazing for us, and has brought lots of people in to enjoy themselves,” he said. “Our sort of food being plant-based means it’s good for the environment too.

“We want to keep people coming out and I think that’s good for the city. I’ve been out and about and you see more and more people eating out.”

At the Lifeboat Inn in Thornham, the team will be offering bottomless mussels for £10 per guest, including a pint of Moongazer Ale or glass of wine every Monday and Tuesday in September.

And Moss and Co, which runs The Village Maid in Lound, The Bell Inn in Carlton Colville, The Jolly Sailors in Pakefield, The Waveney in Oulton Broad, The Commodore in Oulton Broad and The Angel Inn in Wangford, is extending the 50pc off offer during September.

Others, though, will be keeping a watching brief over the coming weeks to see what comes next.

Stephen Hutton, managing director at Middletons Steakhouse and Grill, which has restaurants around East Anglia, including in Norwich and King’s Lynn, said it had no current plans to introduce another offer, and would instead wait to see how things unfolded over the coming weeks.

He said the scheme had been “phenomenal” for business in August.

Data shows increase in restaurant visits

Data from Google appears to show the popularity of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

The figures from the technology giant have tracked people’s movements throughout lockdown, showing increases and decreases in travel to certain areas, including parks, shops and workplaces.

The latest report shows more people visiting recreation and retail establishments - which includes restaurants - on Mondays to Wednesdays in August than on other days.

The numbers show an increase or decrease on a baseline value - the average figure for the corresponding day of the week during the five-week period between January 3 and February 6 this year.

On August 3, 4 and 5 - Monday to Wednesday - the figure was between 4pc and 5pc above that average, increasing to between 6pc and 10pc on the following Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

But other days of the week saw a decline in visits - down 19pc on Saturday, August 8 and 15 and 13pc on Friday, August 7.