Held on February 16, 2021 The Bangladeshi Catering Association hosted a virtual meeting addressing issues within the hospitality industry due to the pandemic. Chief guests in attendance were Sir Keir Starmer MP and Lord Bilimoria CBE – founder and Chairman of Cobra Beer and President of The Confederation of British Industry.

BCA President MA Munim; Secretary General Mithu Chowdhury; BCA Chief Treasurer Saidur Rahman Bipul provided welcoming remarks and presided over the meeting. They were followed by Former President Pasha Khandaker MBE who brought forward issues facing their industry. The issues brought to light were:

Potential increases of VAT and Tax.

The decimation of curry houses, in the “curry capital” Brick Lane, due to footfall caused by Covid-19.

The issue of visas for workers within the hospitality industry

The affects that Covid-19 has been having on the BME community and in particular those working in the hospitality business.

What the current government can and should be doing to support businesses within this industry.

After listening to the issues raised by members of the BCA, Sir Keir Starmer and Lord Karan Bilimoria took to the stage to offer their support and advice.

Sir Keir Starmer acknowledged how Coivd-19 has been impacting BME communities and he made particular reference to Councillor Abdul Hai’s report on how Covid-19 was impacting the Bangladeshi community.

With reference to how the current government can help businesses within the catering industry, Sir Keir said:

“Your businesses and the businesses of thousands are viable businesses which would be doing fantastic trade but for the fact they these restrictions are in place. When the government imposes restrictions that stop businesses from trading the government must support those businesses throughout.”

Sir Keir Starmer stated that there should be no tax rises at this time and that loan and grant repayments should be made in line with a business’s profits.  He closes his statements by championing the BCA and stating that “the BCA must survive”.  He also stated that the vaccines were the key to the industry getting out of the current situation, a sentiment shared by Lord Bilimoria.

On the topic of vaccinations Lord Bilimoria instilled hope by explaining:

“85% of people are ready to get vaccinated. We not only had one but we had three approved vaccines. There are also two more in the pipeline. We will have several in supply. Our regulator the MHRA are the most respected regulators in the world. There is no way they would regulate one vaccine, let alone three, if they were not safe and effective.”

Lord Bilimoria also encouraged members of the BCA to make use of workplace testing currently being offered by the government. He hopes that the government will allow workplace testing to continue past March as he acknowledged that the hospitality sector has been harder hit than any other sector. In his final words, he championed the BCA and stated that people were missing their restaurants and he recognised the importance these restaurants have in their wider community. Former BCA President Kamal Yakub delivered the closing speech and thanked the chief guests.

Lord Bilimoria and Cobra Beer have been proactive throughout the pandemic in helping those within the industry. More recently, he hosted a talk with Kate Nicholls, Chief Executive of UK Hospitality, whereby members of the hospitality industry could seek advice regarding the pandemic.