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Inverness businesses: 'Everyone just wants to get back to normal'


By Ian Duncan

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Bounceback campaign Pubs & restaurants - Blackfriars Bar..Licensee Billy McKechnie...Picture: Callum Mackay..
Bounceback campaign Pubs & restaurants - Blackfriars Bar..Licensee Billy McKechnie...Picture: Callum Mackay..

A government money off meal deal proved so popular that when it ended last month a number of Inverness businesses decided to continue with their own discounts.

The UK-wide Eat Out to Help Out initiative ran on Mondays to Wednesdays throughout August and saw 50 per cent taken off food and non-alcoholic drink, up to a total of £10 per person.

Restaurants and bars saw a dramatic rise in diners on what would otherwise have been the quieter part of the week – with some claiming it was as busy as the weekend.

Brian Phillips, the assistant manager at the Mustard Seed restaurant, said they were as busy last Monday to Wednesday as a typical weekend.

He said: “There weren’t as many people from England now schools have gone back. It’s more locals. Everyone just wants to get back to normal now. We are doing it until further notice.”

Mr Phillips said it was a good way of encouraging people to get out of the house, with the firm extending the offer at their own expense after seeing how successful the original offer had been.

Billy McKechnie, the licensee of Blackfriars, is offering a range of discounts on food and said the original government offer had definitely helped businesses.

He said: “It helped hospitality and restaurant businesses countrywide. I think most places had good sales records on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

“We didn’t know if the Monday to Wednesday offer would be so popular but it was, which was great – to see people after lockdown come out, they were ecstatic.”

He said they were insisting on people wearing masks when they were moving around the premises but they could take them off while seated.

“We are absolutely focussing on making sure that everyone is safe,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of returning clientèle because we are keeping it so tight.”

Official government figures say there were 256 businesses registered for the scheme in the Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey constituency.

While the offer ran last month, a total of 168,000 meals were discounted providing a total discount of £992,000 in the Inverness area, with an average discount of £5.90 per meal.

Across Highland, 335,000 meals were claimed for a saving of £2,067,000, while more than 6.3 million meals were claimed for in Scotland as a whole.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack called the scheme “a roaring success” that had helped protect 1.8 million hospitality jobs.

Other eateries offering extended discounts: Aspendos, Cafe 1, Castle Restaurant, Bar One, The Caledonian, Georges Thai Restaurant, Revolution, Scotch & Rye, Wetherspoons and La Tortilla Asesina.

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