Since he became Chancellor of the Exchequer earlier this year Rishi Sunak has been showered with plaudits for his handling of the biggest economic and social crisis since the Second World War. Rishi comes from a privileged background, and his father-in-law is the billionaire founder of Infosys, NR Narayanamurthy.
But Rishi has also experienced the rigours of working in a curry house near Southampton docks. Customers at Kuti’s Brasserie are said to have fond memories of 18-year-old Rishi serving tables with charm and grace. Eponymous restaurant owner Kuti Miah is, it seems, an old family fiend and was happy to oblige when Rishi was looking for a bit of pocket money before going to University.
Kuti Miah has in fact known the Chancellor since he was two months old and recalls that the Sunak family regularly spent Christmas Eve at the restaurant. He has told a local newspaper that he always predicted great things for the Chancellor. His shifts at Kuti’s came in the 1990s when the business was at Oxford Road. Today it is located at the city’s Royal Pier. The second youngest ever Chancellor, Rishi is a Hindu, educated at Oxford, with a passion for Southampton Football Club. While he is no doubt privileged, he has strong community roots.
A politician with clear Conservative values, Rishi was also a supporter of the Leave campaign and
has a pragmatic view on immigration. He has said: “I believe that appropriate immigration can benefit our country, but we must have control of our borders.”
Since being elected as MP for the Yorkshire seat of Richmond, Rishi’s journey has been extraordinary. Within three years he had been appointed as chief secretary to the Treasury, and in February this year, became Chancellor after Sajid Javid’s controversial resignation.
Then followed the pandemic and the rest, as they say, is history, with Rishi presiding over a massive £ 350 billion stimulus package to try and stave off the worst of the recession and save jobs. One of the schemes that the restaurant sector has welcomed the most is “Eat out to help out” which offers a 50 % reduction on meals and non-alcoholic drinks, up to a maximum of £10 per head, at eligible pubs, cafes and restaurants in August on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. VAT for the hospitality sector, previously 20%, has been cut to 5% until January 12, 2021.
One of those who is taking up the ‘Eat Out’ offer is Yadgar Marker, who runs the India Club in the
Strand. He says, “I must give credit to the chancellor for helping businesses and easing the financial
burden in many ways. As for his 50 % meals offer, the scheme is an excellent way of encouraging people to start eating out.” Sriram Aylur, executive chef at the Bombay Brasserie and Quilon, has been similarly supportive, describing it as a ‘brilliant offer.”
Businesses need to register for the ‘Eat out to Help Out’ scheme and can do so through a website.
Each week in August, businesses can then claim the money back, with the government promising
that the funds will be in their bank account within five working days. A number of other initiatives by
the Chancellor have also been welcomed by the hard-hit hospitality sector, including curry restaurants. The furlough scheme has allowed staff to receive 80% of wages for example, with a further £1k payment per person for staff taken back. There has also been a number of local measures such as business rate ‘holidays’ and deferrals. Many challenges still remain, and it will be a long time before restaurants are anywhere near back to normal. But, as Chancellor, Rishi Sunak has given many at least a fighting chance of survival.