Indian restaurants in Gloucestershire facing 'curry crisis'
STRICT new immigration laws have plunged Indian restaurants into a curry crisis and left some Gloucester businesses fearing for their futures.
An inability to employ workers from India and other parts of Asia means quality food and customer service has been hit at some restaurants.
Owners are having to work seven days a week and are restricting opening hours as a result.
Tough new rules have hiked up the minimum salary for trained Indian chefs, with other laws stating they must now have five years' experience and also pass an English language test.
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It has stopped restaurants from employing kitchen porters who can learn English on the job while getting trained up in-house in how to cook curry.
Many qualified Indian chefs are being scooped up by hotels as smaller restaurants struggle to stump up the cash for higher salaries.
Chorlan Dharumalingam manages Aroma in Southgate Street, Gloucester, and needs five chefs to run his restaurant, but has only three on the books.
"We have been searching for two new Indian chefs for six months now with no luck," he said.
"It is putting huge pressure on our business. Indian chefs now need to be paid £10,000 extra a year and pass other tests to work in the kitchen.
"This is creating big problems as only the big hotels can afford to pay these kind of salaries. I worry that a lot of smaller restaurants will go out of business because of this."
Chorlan has had to combine his daily business role with helping to prepare meals for customers, just to stay afloat.
Koysor Meah works at Spicy Kalkata in Longlevens and said it was not easy employing new staff.
"It is very difficult to attract younger people," he said.
"Before, we have employed kitchen porters with limited English, and then trained them up as chefs in the kitchen and their language has improved. They need to relax the restrictions, it would help the economy. People may have the finance in place and the ability, but without staff you can't run a restaurant."
Mannan Abdul, CEO of The Brasserie Group, which owns seven restaurants including the Indian Brasserie in Cheltenham, said he worried about the future of the industry.