The Chairman of the Asian Curry Federation (ACF) Yawar Khan, has made the gloomy prediction that half of the nation’s curry houses will disappear from the High Street inside a decade.
Issues facing curry restaurant owners – such chef shortages and rising costs – have been widely reported, but it is the failure of some restaurateurs to respond to changing customer demands and ignoring modern technology, that will spell the collapse of this once thriving sector.
Despite two curry restaurants closing each week, the dining out sector as a whole, is actually thriving, with sales and new openings on the increase.
The Asian Catering Federation represents owners of over 35,000 ethnic restaurants and takeaways – including those in the Indian, Chinese, Thai and Malaysian community, but the largest single group are Bangladeshi. Over 90 per cent of Britain’s ‘Indian’ curry restaurants are Bangladeshi owned.
“We British Bangladeshis can be very insular and inward looking, we fail to regard other cuisines as competition and we are slow to adopt new marketing opportunities, such as social media platforms,” said Khan.
Although the ACF lobbies Government about takling skills shortages, high business rates and VAT, Khan says his message “won’t go down well with many of my members, who continue to fail to heed warnings and take responsibility for the survival of their businesses.”
Each year, the ACF organises the prestigious Asian Curry Awards to recognise the best in the industry, encouraging ever higher standards and inspiring the next generation of chefs. The Federation also runs a nationwide roadshow, educating members about changing eating trends and key industry issues like health, nutrition and hygiene.
“For years we have been telling restaurants they need to up their game with shorter menus, offering lighter healthier options with more fish and vegetable dishes, with genuinely authentic regional food.
“Many rarely see a customer at lunch time, whilst pubs and chains like Nandos are serving thousands of spicy dishes throughout the day.
“Restaurateurs feel that there’s no demand for spicy dishes when temperature rise – as if it never gets hot on the subcontinent.
“Looking at drinks menus, you would never know that they grow tea in India – where are the green, oolong and white teas. Where’s the Darjeeling, Assam, Dooar, and Travancore?” asked Khan.
Fellow ACF committee members are in agreement. Thomas Chan (who is also Chairman of the Chinese Takeaway Association) .and Teddy Chen (Chairman of the Malaysian Restaurant Association) report similar complacency among many of their own members.
“The best run restaurants will survive and thrive – the less well run will be replaced by a new wave of more innovative operators,” said Chan, whilst Chen added, “It will be sad to lose some old favourites, but there some exciting and dynamic restaurateurs waiting in the wings to take their place.”
The 7th Asian Curry Awards will take place at the Grosvenor House Hotel in Mayfair on Sunday 12th November 2017.