Dining scheme set to return after injecting $40 million into the city

Dining scheme set to return after injecting $40 million into the city

By Brendan Rees

The City of Melbourne’s popular Melbourne Money scheme – which pumped $40 million into the city’s economy – is set to return for “another round” once the sixth lockdown ends.

Councillors voted unanimously in support of bringing back the scheme at the Future Melbourne Committee (FMC) meeting on August 17 after cafes, bars, and restaurants reported “experiencing a noticeable increase” in customers when the program ran from June 11 to July 13.   

The scheme was launched in a bid to lure visitors back to Melbourne and reactivate the city as it emerged from rolling lockdowns, with diners able to claim a 20 per cent rebate on their meals when they spent between $50 and $500 within the municipality.          

A total of 270,216 claims were made as part of the program with the average claim being $149, according to a council report presented at the FMC meeting.   

The average rebate was $30 with 66 per cent of claims made by visitors from outside the municipality. Overall, the scheme contributed $40 million in economic stimulus.  

The CBD topped the list for claims at popular dining destinations followed by Carlton, Southbank and Docklands.    

The results also showed that three in every four Melbourne Money participants had come to the city specifically to go out for meals or drinks while 85 per cent of all claimants indicated that Melbourne Money was “a key factor in their decision” to visit the city.     

Activity also “increased much more quickly” during the program compared to February after the state plunged into its second lockdown.   

Speaking at the council meeting, Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said Melbourne Money had provided a “vital lifeline” for restaurants and eateries at “the time of greatest need”.  

“I think Melbourne Money has been one of the best inventions or innovations to come out of this crisis,” he said.  

“It really has been a lifeline for so many businesses,” he said. “I can only hope that Melbourne Money will continue in some form.”   

Lord Mayor Sally Capp also hailed the scheme a success, saying it delivered the “most value possible to hospitality businesses”.

City activation portfolio lead Cr Roshena Campbell said the council was aware that many businesses had paid a “high price” due to repeated lockdowns and Melbourne Money was “one of the most important things” to help the city bounce back. 

“I want businesses to know that we are working hard here to bring this vision back; that we’ve had great success and that we will do everything we can to make sure that Melbourne comes back to life as quickly as possible,” Cr Campbell said.   

Andy Bonnici who runs The BondStore café at Riverside Quay said the scheme had made a “huge difference”.

“A lot of people were asking for receipts to claim the scheme. A lot of families were coming in and spending over $100,” he said, adding it was “well worth it” and was “100 per cent” in favour of bringing it back.

Nick Edgar, owner of Gordon Expresso café in Southbank, said while he welcomed the dining scheme, it was “very hard to gauge” how many customers had taken up the offer.

But he said it “certainly doesn’t hurt at all” to relaunch the scheme which was a “really good aspect” of luring people back to the city and providing a boost to the hospitality sector.

Saporito Café owner Matthew Defina said if Melbourne Money was to return he hoped it would be better promoted. “It didn’t really last long. By the time it just got going, I just found out it had all finished,” he said, adding he had to tell most customers about the offer.

Asked if the scheme did make a difference, he said “I don’t know about it bringing more customers” but “a fair few people sitting down did use it”.

“It was alright ... it just didn’t last long but the idea behind it was good.”

The City of Melbourne will work with the state government to deliver round two of Melbourne Money “as soon as possible” after the state’s sixth lockdown ended.   

When the scheme was initially launched in June the state government provided $7.4 million, while the City of Melbourne contributed $1.2 million •

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