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News & Views

Are we ready to curry favour with Olympic visitors?

sector so that every visitor who comes to the Olympics tries a British curry at least once. We have so many fine spice restaurants across the UK, each one with their unique selling point and fla- vours, and it would a real shame if this chance were to be missed. But time is running out.”

Olympic fever is gradually starting to ignite, with the recent surge in demand for tickets which could not be fulfilled. The Olympic Park is taking shape and will be virtually competed in a few months, well ahead of schedule. Test sporting events are due to be held in the summer.

Next year millions of visitors from every corner of the globe will descend on the capital as the country hosts what has rightly been called the ‘Greatest Show on Earth.’ Staging the Olympics will be a challenge, but it will also offer a once in a generation opportunity to show- case what we do well in this country. And one of the things we do best is serve up a good curry!

The Olympic Games offers the UK’s curry restaurants, and particularly restaurants in London and the South East, a unique chance to promote themselves on a global stage. They have an opportunity to gain global recognition and promote the British curry as one of the world’s truly great cuisines.

But are we ready to seize this once in a lifetime opportunity? Enam Ali, Spice Business editor, says, “At this moment in time I would have to say no. I have been in the business for over 20 years, yet I have seen very little being done to promote the curry sector in the con- text of the Olympics. We have to get together and market our

Spice Business Magazine

Enam believes the industry has to pro- actively promote the curry industry to visitors coming to see and take part in the Olympic Games. He says, “These visitors have to be given all the infor- mation they need about our flourishing curry restaurant sector so they come and sample the wonderful food on offer while they are here for the Games. And I am not just talking about Brick Lane, which is a vibrant centre whose East End location will make it attractive for those going to the Olympic Park. Right across the capital there are a host of establishments serving curry of the highest quality, and to suit a range of different budgets.”

But London isn’t the curry capital, nor is Glasgow or Birmingham. Enam believes the whole country is a ‘curry nation’ and restaurants everywhere can reach out and take advantage of the Olympics to give their business a major boost.

Marketing and promotion are the key to success. Enam adds, “There is a strong case for a unified approach, rather than trying to do this on a res- taurant by restaurant basis. We will be much stronger if all curry restaurants work together to promote ‘British Curry 2012’.”

But individual restaurants have to gear up as well so they are ready for the influx of visitors. Have they got the menus right? Do they need to offer them in different languages? How are they going to cope with a possible surge in business? Does their interior and exterior need a bit of a makeover ready to receive visitors?


Staffing is crucial and it is here that the industry needs support from the gov- ernment. Many restaurants are short of chefs and other staff, yet the gov- ernment is making it more and more difficult to recruit professionals from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and other locations where the necessary skills can be found. Takeaway restaurants have been told they can no longer apply to bring chefs from abroad. All restaurants are also being told chefs have to pass an English language test when the only test they really need to pass is the language of curry!

Furthermore restaurants are now able to recruit chefs at graduate level only, with a minimum salary offer of £28,260. These chefs have to be edu- cated to NVQ level 4 and this means 5 years of experience at a senior post- graduate level. More boxes have to be ticked, including a good CV as well as references showing a career progres- sion, before they can even start the process of recruitment.

Enam says, “Of course the Government has to take action on immigration. But these rules are a real straight-jacket for the curry restaurant sector, which naturally finds it difficult to employ people with the right cooking skills and passion for curry that they need within the UK and European Union. It would be a great pity if restau- rants who are thinking of expanding or promoting themselves during the Olympics are not able to do so because they cannot find the right staff.”

There are only around 400 days to go before the Olympics starts. The clock is ticking down as we get ready wel- come the world to London and the UK. Enam concludes, “Curry is one of our potential gold medal winners, but only if we start getting ready now. And that includes the Government agree- ing to ease its restrictions on overseas recruitment.”

July/August 2011

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