Restaurateurs in Northern Ireland are calling on HMRC to continue its Eat Out to Help Out Scheme to allow the trade to claw back some of the earnings lost over lockdown.
It comes as Frankie and Benny's said it had permanently closed its site at Sprucefield Park.
And the industry believes such losses reinforce a longer-term need for more governmental incentives to support the sector worst hit by Covid-19.
Belfast Telegraph restaurant critic, Joris Minne, said larger format chains like Frankie and Benny's cannot react to environmental challenges like Covid-19 as quickly as independent businesses, which could mean even more losses in the pipeline.
He said: "It looks like the larger chains just don't have the flexibility to change their business models quickly and to suit the new economic climate. Northern Ireland's sector is largely independently owned and made up of small businesses who are proving more resilient and able to flex with the very turbulent times they face."
NI restaurateurs now say HMRC should extend the Eat Out to Help Out scheme and say the programme had "very positive" uptake in August. It gives diners a £10 discount per head from Monday to Wednesdays in August on food and soft drinks.
Some of the most popular venues here revealed they are reaching full capacity on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings thanks to the scheme.
And there are reports that Belfast's most popular spots are now fully booked on Monday to Wednesday from now until the first week in September.
Over 1,500 restaurants, not including bigger chains, signed up to the scheme in Northern Ireland.
As a result the number of people eating out surged while businesses who initially hadn't signed up to the scheme joined later in the month to avail of its tried and tested pulling power.
Chef and restaurant owner Niall McKenna, who owns James Street South and Hadskis in Belfast, said: "We decided to participate as many of our customers were calling to book and I felt it would be remiss not to give them the opportunity to avail of the offer. When you look at the restaurants, Monday to Wednesday, it really has created an offer that customers want to avail of which is good as it is getting customers out and about.
"It's a super deal and not just good for restaurants but all our local suppliers who we are able to buy from."
Tony O'Neill, owner of restaurants Coppi and Buba in St Anne's Square in the city said he has extended his opening hours to take advantage of the scheme.
"It has been very positive for business. It's brought a lot of people back out on Mondays Tuesdays and Wednesdays. We've opened an extra night with Coppi and Buba is opened seven days a week," he said.
"It would be good if it continues. It has been a brilliant incentive to get confidence back and getting people out but I do expect September and October to be hard months for the restaurant businesses."
So far the restaurateur has kept all of his staff, with Eat Out to Help Out allowing him to bring 60% of the workforce back and out of furlough.
Meanwhile in Ballycastle, Nigel McGarrity, who runs The Salthouse Hotel, said the scheme was important in driving footfall.
He said: "Government incentives such as these also encourage people to sample the local produce that is on offer and provide a boost for the hospitality sector and for suppliers.
"They also help to sustain employment in these industries."
In Co Armagh, Jason Foody, general manager of Killeavy Castle, said: "There has been a marked difference in trade at the beginning of the week than at the end of the week because of the scheme.
"We are in a great position because we are benefiting also from the staycation market but the scheme has definitely got more people out and about."
Comparing numbers to last year, Mr Foody added: "Customer numbers are higher than last year. In hindsight I think we thought it would've been much harder to attract people back but now we're realising the scheme would work better in the quieter months like September and October and, today, looking at that, it would be very beneficial to continue the scheme."
HMRC told the Belfast Telegraph that there were "no plans at the moment to extend the scheme" beyond August 31.
It also said that across the UK more than 10 million people availed of the scheme in its first week.
While it did not have a regional breakdown for Northern Ireland, the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), said that UK-wide the number of people eating out on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays so far in August was 26.9% higher than on the same days a year ago.
It quoted data from Open Table, the restaurant booking app, which is used by restaurants including Belfast's Edo, Jospers at Ten Square and The Merchant.
Nina Skero, chief executive of CEBR, said: "The goal isn't just for people to eat in restaurants, but also to get back into the habit of socialising, making non-essential journeys and being surrounded - albeit not too closely - by groups of strangers.
"It is arguably this push towards normality that will prove the biggest benefit of the scheme," she added.
Tony O'Neill of Coppi and Buba added: "This incentive is brilliant in that it also allows people to get used to socialising while keeping their distance and following safety measures."