Doubts about Dine and Discover’s impact

The Dine and Discover vouchers are available through the ServiceNSW app.

The NSW Government is poised to give out free vouchers to residents across the state, offering them $100 each to spend on eating out and cultural events – but the vouchers require access to the Service NSW app, which may rule out people who don’t have a smartphone or tablet.

The ‘Dine & Discover’ initiative uses the Service NSW app to provide four $25 vouchers to every adult applicant in the state. Two can be used for dining out at pubs, clubs, cafes and restaurants and two can be used for entertainment and recreation.

Along with the requirement for applicants to have a smartphone, the vouchers come with individual limits, such as:

Dining vouchers:

Must be used Monday-Thursday

Must be spent in one transaction (any unused amount is forfeited)

Must be used at participating businesses

Must be used for seated, dine-in meals

Cannot be used for products or services involving alcohol, gambling or tobacco

Discover vouchers:

Can be used any day of the week

Must be spent in one transaction (any unused amount is forfeited)

Must be used at participating businesses in the following categories:

scenic and sightseeing transport 

cinemas, museums, galleries and historic sites, zoos, botanic gardens, wildlife parks and nature reserves, performing arts operations, theatres and entertainment centres, amusement, theme and water parks, recreational activities such as go-karting, indoor climbing, mini-golf, billiards, bowling or ice-rinks, outdoor adventures, travel agencies and tours.

Commercial Hotel Licensee Jess Bye said the restrictions around alcohol and gambling rule her out of the scheme. The restaurant in The Commercial Hotel is leased by another owner, which meant Ms Bye could only offer customers soft drinks or snacks in exchange for their vouchers. 

At Pie in the Sky Bakery, Co-Owner Maureen Cook said she’d be signing up for the scheme, but was concerned about a large number of her customers who don’t use smartphones.

“It’s very difficult for them, isn’t it?” she asked.

“It certainly discriminates against people who don’t have smartphones. It would be good if there was another option for them, to send them a card or a paper voucher.”

At Pie in the Sky, customers are encouraged to either use the Service NSW app or paper sign-in sheet for their Covid check-in. On Friday, close to 30 people used the paper sheet to log their visit to the bakery.

“We’ve got a few [who don’t use smartphones],” said Mrs Cook, “Especially older customers.”

With the average cost of a lunch at Pie in the Sky running between $8-$15, Mrs Cook said customers would have to shout their friends lunch in order to use their full dining voucher in one visit or risk forfeiting some of the voucher’s value.

The scheme is currently being trialled in Sydney, Bega and Broken Hill.

Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello said the stimulus will bring much needed relief to businesses hit hard by Covid-19 and last year’s bushfires.

 “These communities have been brought to their knees due to the pandemic and bushfires, and the vouchers will deliver a boost for businesses and encourage customers to get out and about safely,” Mr Dominello said.

 “It’s not too late for eligible businesses to register. It can be done online and could bring more customers through the door. Customers should also download the Service NSW app now and reap the rewards.”

 Minister for Finance and Small Business Damien Tudehope said the findings from the pilots will inform the state wide rollout, which will be progressively rolled out from March.

 “About 700 businesses in Bega Valley, the Northern Beaches and Sydney CBD will take part in the second phase of Dine & Discover NSW, and more than 125,000 NSW residents have been invited to participate,” Mr Tudehope said.

 “This stimulus is exactly what businesses need with summer ending soon. It will also put extra money in the pockets of households.”

 Every NSW resident aged 18 and over will soon be eligible for four $25 vouchers worth $100 in total, to spend in participating businesses.

 Both businesses and NSW residents must ‘opt in’ to be eligible for the vouchers via the Service NSW app.