As politicians compete for the anti-immigration vote, our industry should argue for its benefits, says Moving Food director Stephen Minall
We are approaching the time of year when the upcoming General Election will fill us with stories of fear and doom, countered by claims of positivity
in our future, until the results in May.
Arguments will festoon our papers, social media and TV and radio over immigration and what should, if anything, be done about it.
My fear is that our beloved hospitality industry will just sit by, as usual, and say nothing. Is it not time we all, whether in retail or foodservice, actually started to defend the influx of overseas workers on whom we rely so heavily?
There are not many hotels, restaurants, pubs or contract caterers in the UK that could survive without their international workforces. There is even less of a chance of these outlets being supplied with food without overseas employees working in the harvesting, processing, butchering, storing and warehousing of these goods. Nigel Farage may be willing to canvass support while holding a British pint, but he should be aware that the pub's menu was no doubt supplied with the help of outside assistance, namely international workers.
Visit any sandwich manufacturer, pie manufacturer or foodservice supplier and an international workforce will be paramount to their survival. Deny or limit their access to the UK and supermarkets and caterers would struggle to source these items.
Let's face it, whether it's the maids or waiters in our hotels or order takers in a Nando's or Pret, without foreign help these chains would find it difficult to function or expand. The owners of these chains and organisations know the truth but are nervous to speak out.
We have various organisations, associations and trade bodies in the UK catering arena. Are they not brave enough to add a point of view to this 2015 political hot potato?
Very few Britons will work in a chill chain environment, neither will many accept the working conditions to prepare ready meals or to service the multitude of jobs required to fulfil the demand for various food options consumers now expect whether eating at home or dining out.
I have been in this business in various roles for many years and I, for one, appreciate the open-door policy we operate here in the UK. It's time to reflect, but more importantly, it's time we in hospitality took our own political stand for the good of the sector.