Around 600 curry houses have shut in 18 months, with fears that a third of the industry could close
David and Samantha Cameron enjoy a curry. They tucked into chicken korai and saag paneer at Manchester’s Saffron Lounge during the Conservative party conference in October – it wasn’t quite as spicy as the chilli-hot specials they ordered at the Paprika Indian restaurant in Birmingham the previous year.
The prime minister even pledged to protect the struggling £4.2bn curry industry, which employs 100,000 people, at the British Curry awards in 2013. He said he would “get the skilled Asian chefs you need” to the UK, while the home secretary, Theresa May, has admitted that curry chefs are a shortage occupation.
This shortage has been caused by increasingly tough immigration rules, so that restaurants are unable to hire the skilled chefs they need. This makes it difficult for these businesses to grow, while restaurants are unable to provide adequate customer service levels or fulfil orders.
If the problem was acute when Cameron made that pledge, it is now a full-blown crisis. Around 600 curry restaurants have closed in the past 18 months, while there are fears that a further 4,000 – about a third of the industry – could shut.