Discount dining scheme set to return after injecting $40m into the city

Discount dining scheme set to return after injecting $40m 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.  

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.  

Lou Simonovski, who runs gokotta KAFFE, said the scheme made no difference to his sales because customers hardly spent $50 to claim a rebate on their meals.

“We’re just a little coffee shop café. Even if you get two people to come in here to have brunch, juices, coffees, it doesn’t hit the $50 mark,” he said, adding the minimum spend should be $20 to incentivise customers.

“There was only one person in that whole promotion that was able to claim anything because they bought one bag of coffee which totalled to $54.

“Melbourne technically used to be the coffee capital of Australia – with so many coffee shops, who in their right mind is going to hit $50?”

Johanna Maxwell, president of the Docklands Chamber of Commerce, said Melbourne Money had been a “wonderful initiative” and would like to see it along with the Docklands Dollars scheme continued but added, “long term it is going to require a rethink on Docklands to emerge” from the pandemic.

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

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