When I started working in a kitchen as a teenager, I had no idea that years later I would be fortunate enough to set up my own chain of restaurants. As the son of refugees in a new country, it was hospitality that provided me with an opportunity in life. These experiences have given me a deep-rooted passion for our industry and the talented individuals that make it the thriving sector that it is today.
That’s why I was delighted to be involved in the creation of the British Takeaway Campaign (BTC), an umbrella group representing a diverse range of cuisines. Spearheaded by Just Eat, the BTC was formed to give the industry a powerful united voice and offer real solutions to the problems takeaway businesses face.
Our members span the supply and preparation of food including: Bangladesh Caterers Association; British Kebab Awards; CurryLife Magazine; Foodservice Packaging Association; Just Eat; K10 restaurants; National Federation of Fish Friers; Nationwide Caterers Association; Night Time Industries Association; QuickBite; SeeWoo UK; UKHospitality, Westmill Foods; the Catering Equipment Suppliers Association and the UK Bangladesh Catalysts of Commerce and Industry. The BTC also works in collaboration with the Pizza, Pasta and Italian Food Association.
The BTC is celebrating its one-year anniversary. Over the last year, we have highlighted the incredible success story that is the British takeaway industry, which generates £9.4 billion a year and employs more than 231,000 people across the UK. Our sector is a major driver of economic growth and shows no sign of slowing down – takeaway spending is expected to hit £11.2 billion by 2021. As the takeaway industry grows, it is bringing new jobs in regions across the UK – since 2014, the areas with the highest growth were Northern Ireland (21.3%) and the North West (13.2%).
But it’s not just the economic contribution that makes our industry so valuable. Takeaways are at the heart of local communities. 41% of takeaways are involved in community-based activities and of that number, nearly two-thirds provide food to charities, care homes or local events. Takeaways are also a symbol of Britain’s cultural vibrancy – and the BTC is proud to represent so many diverse cuisines.
This year, the BTC has worked hard to ensure our industry’s valuable contribution is recognised by policymakers. We have engaged with MPs from across the political spectrum, as well as health bodies and other key stakeholders in the sector. We have responded to government consultations on immigration, planning and obesity, and appeared before the Health Select Committee to demonstrate the positive steps the industry is taking to enable consumers to make informed choices about what they eat. We are also campaigning to ensure our sector has the right skills and access to talent to continue to grow and look forward to working with the Government on shaping the new hospitality and catering T level.
With more than a third of all takeaway restaurants warning that they would be negatively impacted by the last rates revaluation, we were delighted the Government heeded our call to peg future rises to CPI rather than RPI and to introduce more frequent revaluations, but more needs to be done. We’re calling for a fundamental overhaul of the system.
The BTC is going from strength to strength, increasing our membership and becoming a go-to on issues affecting the sector. However, we know the hard work has only just begun. With Brexit looming on the horizon, increasing business rates and a recruitment shortfall – our industry faces a number of significant challenges in the coming year. Today, the BCA is holding an Action Day in Westminster to protest against current government policy on the Shortage Occupation List, which prevents takeaways from hiring specialist chefs from outside of the EU. We back their call and are urging the Government to go further and ensure the post-Brexit immigration system enables takeaways to access the skills they need from within the EU and beyond.
Although only a year old, our industry now has an influential body, in the BTC, to represent the sector’s needs and interests. Despite the challenges, the future looks bright for the takeaway industry and we are determined to continue championing the sector we are so passionate about.
Ibrahim Dogus, Chair, was writing for Hospitality and Catering News