CUSTOMERS were happy to pick up the bill as restaurants reopened indoors earlier this month and spending soared.

Banking firm Revolut analysed the data of its 4,000 customers in Braintree in the seven days to May 23, as they sat down inside restaurants and cafes for the first time this year.

Diners spent 117 per cent more over this period than they did the previous week when only outdoor dining was permitted, with one bill coming to a hefty £384.03.

However, spending was still 12 per cent below a normal week in February last year before the pandemic began.

Spending in restaurants and cafes across Great Britain saw a larger fall, of 41 per cent.

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Data also shows that spending on cultural activities such as cinema trips between May 17-23 was 68 per cent below a normal pre-pandemic week.

In Braintree, spending was 78 per cent down, with 18-24 year-old men the biggest spenders in the area.

Overall, Braintree residents spent 9 per cent more on all activities over this period than they did the week before, including a 31 per cent rise on transport expenditure.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said: “Current restrictions severely reduce venue capacity, so restaurants' ability to make money is constrained to well below pre-Covid levels.

"Many restaurants have been permanently lost as a result of the pandemic and there are others that, after months of closure and trading restrictions, have not yet reopened.

"A return to unrestricted trading on June 21 is critical and means hospitality businesses will come off life support and be viable for the first time in almost 16 months, and enable companies to bring more staff back.”