PICTURES: Inverness restaurants busy as people return to the city centre to eat out
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Restaurants in Inverness are buzzing as people return to the city centre to eat out and enjoy a taste of normality.
Local people and tourists have been booking tables and premises are busier than some owners expected, having been allowed to reopen from July 15.
Some restaurants kept things ticking over during the lockdown by starting to deliver takeaway meals instead.
Café 1 in Castle Street was among those diversifying and manager Norman MacDonald said he would be keeping that side of the business going as it had proved so popular.
He said that, while they were operating at reduced capacity, the response from customers had been good. He added: "Capacity is heavily reduced but the people that are out are up for being out.
"We've had no negative experiences at all. By and large everyone has been really up for it – they have been craving normality."
Mr MacDonald said it was now "business as usual" and he had received lots of positive feedback.
He said: "People are desperate to be out and there is a buzz to the restaurant. It has all been excellent."
He said he was also optimistic for the future. "It is a long journey we are on but we are all together. It has been a very positive start, there are going to be bumps in the road, but we are ready for that."
Returning tourists have also helped to fill the available seats at the Mustard Seed which overlooks the River Ness in Fraser Street.
Brian Phillips, the assistant manager, said that since reopening it had been really busy after a quieter first day.
He said: "Luckily there were a lot of people up from the rest of Scotland – they just wanted to get out of the house."
Safety measures at the restaurant have included: staff wearing visors or face masks; reducing the number of tables to allow social distancing; and hand sanitisers.
Mr Phillips said: "We are just trying to make it as normal as possible for the customer."
He said his staff were also keen to get back to work and he was optimistic for the coming months. "So far, since we've been open, we've been busier than we expected," he said.
Mr Phillips said that, as he walked to work, he was noticing more people in the city centre and added: "The town seems to be busier."