Firms try to cool curry war

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The Independent Online
PROFITS as well as pappadoms are being devoured in the Indian restaurants of Bristol.

A curry price war has erupted that has spread to neighbouring towns and threatens to ruin dozens of businesses. The recession and the demands of banks and VAT officials have forced an estimated 40 restaurateurs to cut prices, often by as much as half.

Yesterday, more than 100 restaurateurs from the Bangladeshi community met in Bristol to discuss the crisis.

The price war was triggered in June when the Raj in Cheltenham Road, beset by financial problems, cut some of its prices by as much as half. A chicken curry there now costs pounds 2.10 and nan bread 75p. The number of customers increased rapidly, but at the expense of profit and the trade of several neighbouring establishments. Others reluctantly followed.

Sayed Anwural Haque, the Bristol area Bangladeshi Association's vice-president, who runs the Sonargaon restaurant in Kingswood, said: 'I'm selling chicken tikka for pounds 2.95 instead of pounds 5.95, and chicken biryani at pounds 3.50 instead of pounds 6.95.'

Ahmed Chowdhury, who runs Rajpoot and is president of the association, said: 'It was very popular with the customers. Restaurants got much busier, but they can't survive. For the last two or three years we have been unable to increase our prices while the herbs and spices we import have become more expensive.

'It came to the point where almost everybody was joining in. Then as an organisation we said that unless something is done it will be the end of the industry.' Last night, he called for a united front among restaurateurs: 'We need to agree on minimum prices for dishes and for this war to come to an end.'