Curry houses facing crisis over lack of skilled chefs

Restaurant owner Mustak Mia. Photo Steve Robards
Restaurant owner Mustak Mia. Photo Steve Robards
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A crisis is facing curry restaurants in Mid Sussex because of a shortage of skilled chefs.

A number of restaurants have been forced to close across the country and now business owners in Burgess Hill say that their restaurants are also under threat.

The worried owners met up with Mid Sussex MP Sir Nicholas Soames in Burgess Hill on Friday in a bid for support.

They say the crisis has been caused by a tightening of immigration rules which has left them unable to recruit staff.

Mustak Miah, who has run the Indian restaurant Flavour in Keymer Road, Burgess Hill, since 2009, is hoping that the Government will give its backing to a new chef training scheme.

“In the whole country, there is a restaurant closing down every week because of a lack of skilled employees,” he said.

“The situation is getting worse and worse. We are trying to survive.”

He added: “People are getting fed up. They just can’t get the right staff. It is pointless having a restaurant without skilled staff.”

He said problems had exacerbated after new immigration rules prevented students from working while they were studying.

“Previously, they could study and work at the same time which was beneficial to them and the restaurant owner.”

Now, he said, restaurants faced skilled chef wage bills of around £29,000 which was not economically viable for small businesses.

“It is very difficult in the catering business where the profit margin is so low. That is why everyone is struggling.”

Mr Miah, secretary of the Mid Sussex Bangladeshi Welfare Association, said: “We have requested this meeting with Sir Nicholas Soames to ask for his help.

“All curry restaurants are struggling and many owners are just giving up and closing their businesses.

“I cannot get enough skilled staff so I am working longer and longer hours to plug the gap – I am near to giving up.

“We desperately need a solution to keep this industry going.”

He said, nationally, the industry was worth £4.5 billion a year and employed more than 100,000 people.