More than one million meals were enjoyed at half price in Dorset as residents made the most of the government's Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

The UK-wide promotion gave people up to 50 per cent off when eating - or drinking soft drinks - in a participating restaurant with a maximum discount of £10 per person. It ran on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout August.

Now it has been revealed how much Dorset residents managed to save as a result of the scheme. 1,033,000 meals were claimed across the county, saving customers £5,552,000.

The recently released figures only include businesses with 25 or fewer outlets registered for the scheme. In south Dorset, 160 restaurants and eateries registered, 242,000 meals were claimed and customers received a total discount of £1,202,000. This was an average discount of £4.96.

In west Dorset there were slightly more registered places with 181. Here, customers claimed 154,000 meals through the scheme and saved £909,000. On average, customers saved £5.92.

North Dorset foodies had a choice of 118 restaurants of where to make the most of the scheme. They claimed 66,000 meals and received a £378,000 discount, saving an average of £5.71.

Craig Oakes, president of the Weymouth and Portland Chamber of Commerce, said that some businesses wouldn't have survived the pandemic without the increased business brought in by the scheme.

He said: "The scheme seems to have been accepted well, with a good life line that we had over that August period.

"The devil is in the detail with what will happen overall with that size of money and where it will be passed to in the future, but we have had to live month by month and this sort of measure needed to be put in place to help the economy continue.

"It may be worth revisiting something like this in the winter months as well if it has been popular, it would be useful for businesses.

"It has helped businesses, there would have been a problem if there wasn't something like that in place. It came when it was needed.

"It was great from the consumers point of view. Our hospitality sector have been run ragged, it was obviously a difficult and very busy month for them, but they certainly wouldn't have been without it. Some businesses wouldn't have survived without it."

Across England, nearly 57,000 businesses with less than 25 outlets registered with the scheme. More than 51 million meals were claimed, with a total discount of more than £295 million.

*Despite the government support for the scheme having ended, some pubs, cafes and restaurants in Dorset have opted to keep offering discounts to help boost trade.

Slug and Lettuce in Weymouth will continue offering 50% discounts throughout September, but is removing the £10 per person discount cap, as is Rendezvous and the Royal Oak.

Hall & Woodhouse - which runs The Crown in Blandford and The Ship in Weymouth - is extending the scheme in the majority of its managed pubs until the end of September, while The Spyglass Inn, at Bowleaze Coveway, will continue to run the scheme until September 9.

Wetherspoon venues The Swan and The William Henry in Weymouth, The Royal Oak in Dorchester and The Greyhound in Bridport, will be running the company’s ‘Stay Out to Help Out’ scheme, which will see prices on meals and drinks reduced from Mondays to Wednesdays until November 11.

The Loft in Weymouth is running a 'buy one pizza get another half price' offer from Mondays to Wednesdays throughout the month, with The Gamekeeper in Dorchester offering 25 per cent off meals, starting from mid-September.

Weymouth Golf Club Clubhouse will also be offering 25 per cent off selected meals from Thursdays to Saturdays.

The Gloucester on the Esplanade will continue to run the scheme on Wednesdays, while Jailhouse Café in Portland will be offering a 'two people eat for £10' lunch special on weekdays.

Seabeats, a seafood restaurant on the Esplanade, will be offering £10 off per person from Tuesdays to Thursdays with a minimum of two courses, throughout October.