In an iconic scene in The Devil Wears Prada (2006), Anne Hathaway’s character smirks at a discussion at the fashion magazine where she works. The obsessions of her editor (Meryl Streep), she seems to believe, are both flighty and elitist. Streep corrects her, pointing out how the tasks they carry out are essential to an industry that employs millions. Restaurants are far less elitist than the fashion industry and the food and hospitality industry is facing an existential crisis. The British government’s “eat out to help out” scheme, therefore, merits consideration.
Under the EOHO scheme, the UK government will pay 50 per cent of the bill for diners (excluding alcohol, with an upper limit of 10 pounds) to help out the restaurant industry. The subsidy, in effect a direct cash transfer to eateries, attempts to address the demand problem facing the industry. The economic fallout of the pandemic — pay cuts, job losses, a general lack of spending due to uncertainty — will certainly be mitigated somewhat by government assistance. In fact, given that the hospitality industry is labour intensive, such a subsidy is definitely worth considering.
Since June 1, when the “unlock” phase began, there has been no specific package from the Indian government for the hospitality industry. There are two conceivable arguments against this: First, due to physical distancing norms, restaurants may be unable to meet demand. To this, the response is that supply follows demand, and the market will certainly find a way. Besides, at this point, the problem of overcrowding is one most eateries will be happy to deal with. Second, given the many crises plaguing the country due to the pandemic, subsidising a luxury like eating out is not a priority. To that, it must be said that life is not just about tasks, but also tastes. And those that put food on a table at a restaurant are anything but elite.
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