The Eat Out to Help Out scheme needs to be extended, small businesses have said.
The call comes as the popular initiative, which sees the cost of eat-in meals reduced three days a week, is due to finish at the end of August.
The Government announced the scheme, in which diners’ meals are slashed to half price up to the value of £10 per head during August, to help the hard-hit hospitality industry cope with the coronavirus crisis.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has called on ministers to extend the scheme into September.
The federation’s chairman Mike Cherry said: “The Eat Out to Help Out scheme has been an overwhelming success in getting people back on their high streets and in their town centres.
“We now need to see it extended to continue the critical support that it is providing for small firms as we enter a period of economic make or break.
“Over the past few weeks, the scheme has been hugely welcomed by small businesses and their customers alike.
“A nationwide one-month extension would go some way to helping many firms which are still only just about managing in this time of crisis.
“More than 35 million meals have been cooked and dished out across almost 50,000 restaurants and cafes who have been able to reap the rewards of this great initiative, but as we enter September with schools reopening and more people going back to their places of work, there are still strong merits to continuing this for one more month.
“Additional support is still needed for certain groups in the leisure sector, especially pubs.
“We need to see these community hubs fully brought into the Eat Out to Help Out fold, particularly as they have been excluded from the recent VAT cut for food.”
The FSB said that after September the scheme should be “reactivated” in areas that have gone through local lockdowns.
Mr Cherry said: “We must do all we can to safeguard the futures of the small firms that make up 99% of our small business community. They will be pivotal to our recovery from this recession.”