Other threats to British curry industry beside credit crunch


LONDON (eTN) – The international credit crunch is not the only challenge facing the curry industry in the UK today. The bigger threat is the government’s new points-based immigration system, which comes into force this month.

This was the stark message given at this year’s British Curry Awards by Enam Ali, the founder of the event. He warned: “ For an industry already under huge strain from staff shortages, this could represent a killer blow for many restaurateurs who will find it harder still to recruit skilled staff they need to keep their kitchens operating effectively and efficiently.”

Mr. Ali added: “After four decades of growth the industry is already showing the first signs of shrinkage. Unless politicians have the courage to express openly what they say to me privately – that there is good reason for curry restaurants to be treated as a special case – this will only accelerate.”

This was a message British-Asian restaurateurs fervently hoped would be heeded by the influential politicians who were among the celebrity guests present at the awards. This was the fourth year of the awards, which continue to get bigger and better and are being described as the Curry Oscars. The event featuring Bollywood dancers, comedians and other headline acts has become a high point of London’s social calendar bringing together restaurateurs and customers from right across the country.

The organizers hope the glamour associated with the awards will encourage the younger generation of Asians to take up the trade. There are already some encouraging signs with several younger Asians turning their backs on other professional careers in order to run restaurants.

Mr. Ali said: “That is good news indeed, especially if they can persuade their peers to join them in the kitchens or at the front of the house. If we’re going to get help from the politicians, convincing more of our younger people that the hospitality business still has a future is an absolute necessity.”

MPs from the major political parties, invited to present awards to the winners, were united in declaring their fondness for curries. As one of them pointed out hundreds of thousands of people depend on curry for their livelihoods. The test now is to see if they will turn their words into deeds by lobbying for the stringent new immigration laws to be eased so that skilled chefs can still be around to serve up their favorite dishes.