CURRY houses say that a shortage of skilled chefs brought about by tighter immigration rules is hurting their businesses and forcing many to the brink of closure.
Diners are being urged to support their local Indian restaurants and takeaways as they face challenging times.
Statistics from the Bangladesh Caterers Association, which represents 12,000 British Bangladesh restaurants and takeaways in the UK, show that two are closing down every week.
Abu-Suyeb Tanzam, who is part of the association, says the problem is industry-wide – and critical. He runs Gandhi in Anjou Crescent, Fareham.
Mr Tanzam said: ‘It is hard to run a small business. Lots of restaurants and takeaways in the south east are closing, or going to close down, due to the shortage of skills.
‘It is the biggest reason, as they cannot find the staff. Indian food is one of the most skilled to learn, as chefs need to know every single spice and ingredient. It is not easy.’
Mr Tanzam said he was lucky to have a chef that has worked for him for 18 years, and he urged diners to support local businesses.
‘This is the only way we can protect their future,’ he said.
Rules state that a chef from outside the UK must be paid £29,570, after deductions for accommodation, meals and other living allowances – which most business owners say they cannot afford to pay.
These jobs also cannot be in a restaurant that has a takeaway service or one that has ‘standard fare’ where dishes and/or cooking sauces are bought in ready-made, rather than prepared from fresh ingredients.
Mosud Ahmed, who runs Cafe Tusk, in West Street, Fareham, said he too has faced tough times.
He said: ‘There is a shortage, people are struggling to fill those roles. It is getting very expensive to pay staff, and that means it is difficult.
‘Lots of places are closing down. We are still going, and the business is still going, but it is quieter than it used to be, and more difficult to continue.’
Kaz Miah, who runs Red Lounge Group, a group of seven Indian restaurants across Portsmouth, said: ‘It is a struggle and it is really concerning, If we don’t do something about it now, there will be more Indian restaurants closing down.’
Mr Miah has organised meetings with South Downs College and Highbury College in the hope of setting up a scheme to train English people to become chefs.