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Melbourne diners follow the money

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The City of Melbourne’s pandemic stimulus meal voucher scheme has drawn substantial numbers of commuters to restaurants in the CBD, throwing a lifeline to the struggling inner-city hospitality sector.

Data from the $100million Melbourne Midweek Money scheme – designed to help revive the city between Monday and Thursday – shows the most subsidized meals for non-locals went to residents of Werribee, 20 miles away west of the CBD, who made nearly 1,240 claims.

Brandan Katich, chef at Nomad Restaurant, says the restoration program has helped

Brandan Katich, chef at Nomad Restaurant, says the dining program has helped “supercharge” weeknights during the COVID-19 recovery period.Credit:Joe Armao

Diners from Glen Waverley, Sunshine and Box Hill have also shown willingness to travel to the city, lured by a 25% discount at their restaurant, cafe or pub. They spent an average of $155 each on their meals, $40 more than locals, during the second phase of the stimulus package, which ran from early March to mid-April.

The council estimates that more than half of the 850,000 people who had cut-price meals spent $200 or more on shopping or entertainment while in town, and that the program helped increase foot traffic in the streets. major nightlife venues such as Southbank, Chinatown and Lygon Street up 42% from January to March.

The city’s hospitality sector was badly in need of a boost after the long lockdowns and work-from-home periods of 2020 and 2021, with business conditions at cafes only returning to around 40% of levels. before COVID in February this year, according to ANZ Bank.

At Nomad restaurant on Flinders Lane, chef Brendan Katich says the voucher scheme, jointly funded by the council and the state government, has helped to ‘supercharge’ weeknight nights during the recovery period.

“I would say it would have definitely added to our trade by at least… 30 or 40 per cent, there were so many more bums in the seats, especially in the days when Melbourne was coming back,” Katich said.

“It was like six to eight supercharged weeks when [the scheme] just people really motivated to go out and then they spent very well, I think, more than they otherwise would have.

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