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Happy New Year to you all! Let us hope that 2013 will see an improvement in fortunes for our industry, which is still struggling against a number of issues.

We must continue to press the government to reduce VAT on restaurant meals. I am convinced that far from actually costing money it would raise income by encouraging more people to eat out. Restaurants would take on more staff, who would pay tax, so it would be a ‘win,win’ all round. Please write to your MPs suggesting this very sensible measure, which has already proved beneficial in France.

There is also an urgent need to get the Government to see sense on immigration. A number of well-known restaurant chains have decided not to expand in the UK, because they can’t get chefs with the required level of expertise in this country or the EU. Instead they are looking to invest in places like Dubai. How can it be in the national interest for this to happen? There have to be rules on immigration, but some flexibility over the current visa regulations must be the way forward. Changing the rules would help get the spice restaurant sector, which is a significant part of the economy, growing again. I have been raising issues to the government on the UKBA raids to the industry which are causing more harm, I am very pleased to see Masala Bazaar took the legal challenge and won their case (see page 15).

There were high hopes that the so-called curry colleges could lead to more ‘home grown’ talent joining our industry to offset the impact of immigration regulations. However the initial reports have not been very encouraging and there is a real danger the scheme could turn out to be an expensive flop. We hope the colleges will in the end have a positive impact; but we really can’t wait for them to produce results. We need our curry chefs now!

One thing we can all do is to encourage more women to join in our businesses, as chefs, kitchen staff, front of house or management. There is a lot of untapped talent out there and we should embrace it. We have been a very male orientated industry for too long. Let’s make 2013 the year when we start to make a change. It may turn out that the answer to

the chef shortage we have been looking for is closer to home that we thought!

I made this point very strongly at the British Curry Awards, which were the by far the best yet. I was delighted with the response this time, with more pubic nominations than ever before. The decision to bring in the takeaway side of the business proved very popular and we also benefitted from the link with Just Eat.

It was good to see so many representatives of our industry there, along with politicians and VIPs. With 1600 people packed into the Evolution hall it was certainly a night to remember.

In this issue there is news of a new ‘App’ which the British Curry Awards is launching and which will help diners get information about winners and shortlisted restaurants. The new app should help boost the numbers going to BCA listed restaurants by ‘pointing the way’ with lots of information about location, menus and so on, and should be a clear benefit to our industry.

New IT tools like apps are the way forward, but as another story in this issue shows we have to be on our guard against problems that can occur with websites in particular. A few years ago a website was a ‘nice to have’ and now it is absolutely vital. But just like any other part of the business things can go wrong and you need to call on expert help to get it right. Just make sure that the experts you use are professional and reliable, or you may pay a heavy price.

Enam Ali MBE-FIH

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