The British Hospitality Association (BHA) has requested a meeting with the Home Office to discuss the impact of the new immigration ruling on the UK’s restaurant sector, which is already suffering from a shortage of specialised ethnic chefs.
The government’s new rules on immigration stipulate that only graduate occupations will be allowed to apply for a Tier 2 work permit for skilled migrants. The change, which will come into effect in April 2011, will effectively prevent specialised non-European chefs from entering Britain as skilled workers.
This is bad news for the UK’s 13,000 ethnic restaurants, which rely heavily on chefs from outside Europe.
Ethnic palate is hard to find
According to Ranjit Mathrani, chairman of Masala World, the new policy could destroy business for restaurants specialising in non-European cuisines such as Japanese, Thai and Chinese.
“A sophisticated taste palate attuned to the flavours, textures, raw materials, smells, and flavourings of the particular cuisine can only be acquired after many years intense familiarity with the particular cuisine, generally starting from a very early age,” he said.
“A formal graduate level educational qualification is manifestly a misguided and irrelevant criterion for this. Very few top restaurant British chefs would meet this criterion.”
Dear Theresa May
As part of efforts to open dialogue with the Government and communicate the industry’s predicament, BHA chief executive Ufi Ibrahim this week sent a letter to the Home Secretary, Theresa May. The cap, she said, would force many restaurants to close and would also prevent the sector from creating jobs.
According to BHA data, for every specialised chef in the UK, a further 11 other jobs are created.
Ibrahim also noted in her letter that specialised chefs who have met the existing NVQ3 level under the points based system would not be regarded as having graduate status under the new rules.
“In the twelve months to this June, 2,412 Certificates of Sponsorship were issued for chefs, essentially for specialised Asian and Oriental chefs whose lifetime skills cannot be replicated in the EEA workforce,” she wrote.
Talent for growth
Suzanne Letting Chair of The Recruitment & Employment Confederation, Hospitality, told BigHospitality that the migration cap causes “real concerns” for the industry.
"The recent recession left the hospitality sector with pronounced skills shortages. In-demand skills like that of chefs are still difficult to find. Of course, we must do everything possible to up-skill the UK workforce but this will not happen overnight. At a time when UK hospitality is faced with a unique line up of events, like the 2012 Olympics, we need to make sure that the necessary talent is available to secure growth for the industry.”