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How shortage of skilled staff and the Takeaway Clause could damage UK's restaurant sector

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Cambridge member Kobir Ahmed, 35, is married with three children and is the director of the award-winning Prana Indian restaurant in Cambridge. After gaining a Masters qualification and working for 14 years in Community Banking as a Senior Bank Manager, he took a brave step to fulfil his childhood ambition and changed his career path.

Here, he outlines his personal concerns about the curry industry and hopes for its future as the government begins Brexit negotiations.

“Now that the UK has chosen its path, Brexit may give the Indian curry industry a greater opportunity to lobby the government to bring about sensible policies in accessing skills from abroad, while also engaging with the industry on how to attract the next generation to ensure the longevity of an industry worth over £4 billion a year. 

After leaving banking, I wanted to work full time in an industry where my heritage goes back over 150 years - our first restaurant in Bangladesh is still run by my family. This is in our blood and I wish to continue this long heritage in the UK which began in the 1960s.

My restaurant Prana employs around eight to ten people - dedicated culinary artists who gave rise to the industry and who are now becoming hard to replace. 

Our chefs command a complex set of skills that are needed to sustain authenticity and, of course, integrity of our cuisine but we within the industry, fail to recognise or support the industry, while our industry peers fail to recognise the need and willingness to change.

I have vacancies for a second chef and a tandoori chef and two trainee vacancies, which I have failed to fill, this has stopped the progress of our successful business and hampers us in further expanding.
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The government expects us to offer salaries of 30k but although Specialist Chefs are on the government's immigration Shortage Occupation List it disqualifies restaurants that offer Take Away, Delivery, Buffet Dining, and Event Catering as NOT having sufficient specialist skill needs. I offer all of the said clauses but why would a business not want to
attract all means of revenues? 

It really beggars belief. The current negative impact of present immigration rules blocks my business from accessing Specialist Chefs, unless we offer 30k and remove our takeaway service, which is now hampering my progress and preventing many others from building their business further. So much so we will continue to see Indian restaurants or curry houses closing down and British Curry disappearing from our high streets.”