Hospitality industry welcomes extension of “very successful” NSW Dine and Discover program, even as $300 million worth of vouchers go unused

dine and discover

Sydney restaurant Pancakes on The Rocks. Source: supplied.

New South Wales’ Dine and Discover voucher program has been extended until the end of July in a bid to get thousands of residents who are yet to use their vouchers spending in restaurants and on entertainment.

The $500 million program gives each adult resident two $25 vouchers to spend in restaurants and cafes, and two $25 vouchers to spend on experiences, such as museums and cinemas.

In a statement released Thursday, the NSW Department of Customer Service said 4.29 million residents have registered for their four vouchers. However, only 7.69 million vouchers had been redeemed.

With each voucher worth $25, the total value of vouchers redeemed in both hospitality and experience-based businesses is a mere $192 million — just 38% of the program’s overall value.

‘Something needed to be done’ 

The NSW government budgeted $500 million for the program, which was first scheduled to run between March and June. On Wednesday, the government announced it will extend the program until July 31.

Nelson Tromp is the general manager of Pancakes on the Rocks, one of 15,000 restaurants that signed up to participate.

Tromp supports the extension of the voucher scheme, which he says has been hugely popular in the business’ restaurants.

“I think something needed to be done. It seemed to be rolled out very efficiently, and consumers seemed to like it,” Tromp tells SmartCompany.

Pancakes on the Rocks operates five restaurants in Sydney, including in the Rocks, Darling Harbour, Darling Square, Beverly Hills and Northmead.  

Since the program launched in March “hundreds” of customers have redeemed their vouchers across the five stores.

“[The program] has been very successful for us, it’s brought hundreds of customers,” he says.

Trump says registering for the program online at MyServiceNSW was straightforward and, despite one minor issue that briefly prevented him from signing up all five venues, the process was efficient.

While much appreciated, Tromp says the voucher program provided only a small boost to turnover, which continues to be well below pre-pandemic levels.

In fact, Tromp says revenue across the three city restaurants is more than 50% down compared to before the pandemic began in March last year.

“That’s one of the terrible things, in the government’s mind the pandemic is over,” he says.

“But for most restaurants, especially in tourist locations, it’s not over at all, and now there’s nothing compelling landlords to give us rent discounts,” he says.

More than $300 million in vouchers remain

Wes Lambert, chief executive of Restaurant and Catering, says it’s “a positive sign” that the government is willing to extend the redeeming period for the vouchers.

“The winter months are traditionally the lower season for hospitality, so we’ll be calling upon the state government to reassess as we get into the middle or end of July about another extension,” Lambert tells SmartCompany.

Lambert says he would also like to see more targeted use of the vouchers in Newcastle, Sydney’s CBD and Parramatta to ensure those areas “can get a kick from the Dine and Discover voucher system, which was wildly successful”.

The extension of the program should see some of the $300 million worth of unused vouchers redeemed in businesses, he adds. 

The vouchers have been most popular in hospitality businesses, with patrons spending on average $41 for every $25 voucher used.

“As expected, the spend is higher than the voucher amount so businesses in our industry will expect to make close to $1 billion in revenue from the $500 million stimulus,” he says. 

This article was updated at 2:30 June 10 to include confirmed figures from the NSW Department of Customer Service.

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