San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond is proposing a program to help restaurants struggling to come back from a year-plus loss of business due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Desmond's Dine-in and Help Out program would give customers 50% off their meals, up to $10 a person, if they dine out at a local restaurant on Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays. The restaurants can then submit their receipts to the county for reimbursement for the remaining price of the meal, according to the county supervisor.
"This program is a win-win program," Desmond said in a Facebook post. "It’s a win for the customers, many of whom have lost their jobs, who have had trouble paying their rent, who would benefit greatly by getting discounted meals. And it’s a win for the restaurants, who have suffered greatly over the last year."
Desmond's proposal calls for $50 million of the $300 million federal assistance allocated to San Diego County to be used for the Dine-in and Help Out program.
The goal is to encourage dining out without putting the full burden on customers to support struggling restaurants. Desmond said the idea was modeled after a similar program created in the United Kingdom.
The owners of Oggi's in Del Mar are behind Desmond's plan.
"Its going to take years for some restaurants to get where they can pay their bills. Some restaurant owners have lost their homes," Oggi's owner Janis Deady said.
Michael Mitsoglou, Broken Yolk's vice president of operations, explained why customers should support it, too.
"It's the taxpayer's money going back to their pockets to come out and help an industry that suffered a year plus," he said.
Deady is excited about what the plan could do for his business. Her restaurant is surrounded by office buildings, and she says the lunch rush and takeout business were hurt most by the pandemic.
With the Dine out, Help Out plan, discounts could help lift the bottom line during the slowest time of the week.
"It's definitely going to help me to have happy customers, make sure the customer service is great. That kind of helps put people in a better mood because they got a free beer, they got compensated in some way, to be incentivized to come out as well," Deady said.
The County Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on Desmond's proposal next month. He will have competition from other supervisors who are also submitting plans for the use of those federal funds.
Desmond said similar program in the United Kingdom was very successful and helped grow restaurant reservations more than 200%.