Aktar Islam announces third restaurant in the fight against Birmingham chain restaurants

The Staff Canteen

Celebrity chef Aktar Islam has announced that he will open his third restaurant next year, as part of a campaign to combat the rise of chain restaurants in Birmingham.

Aktar Islam was formerly chef director of the Lasan restaurant group, which was named Best Local Restaurant by Gordon Ramsay on the 'The F Word'. In October 2017, he announced his departure from the group to focus on his own projects. Aktar launched his first solo restaurant, Opheem in Summer Row, Birmingham in May this year and it has already received critical acclaim from many.

In an Instagram post on Wednesday, August 8th, Aktar announced that he would be opening a third restaurant in Birmingham. The picture showed floor plans for a two story building and he wrote: "2019 will welcome the 3rd addition to the AI Restaurants family! Another iconic signature restaurant planned for our beautiful city!"

Aktar told The Staff Canteen that full details including a location and concept will be revealed in a release in September, but that this is "a teaser of what's to come", as several restaurants are in the pipeline.

This is part of a larger strategy to combat the rise of chain restaurants like Nando's and Pizza Express in the city of Birmingham, which Aktar says have been on a massive increase in the past few years. He explained how the city is slowly being filled with chain restaurants: "Lots of sub-standard food at very expensive prices. Essentially pretty much everywhere in the inner city now, apart from a handful of independents, most of them serve food that's coming out of factories."

Aktar also stressed that many chains try to deceive consumers by disguising themselves as independent, and using words like 'fresh' to describe their food. He expressed concern at the effect that these restaurants have on smaller, independent restaurants, and how he hopes to "win the market back for independents" by investing in the city.

He said: "It's made it very difficult for independent restaurants to do anything whereas I'm in a very lucky position where I can invest in the city and my goal now for the next few years is to show people that your money spent at independents is always pound-for-pound better because independent restaurants do actually invariably care about their diner. They're more passionate about what they deliver, whereas these multi-national chains, they don't really give a shit about their diner. It's all about extracting as much profit from each cover."

Aktar also highlighted that typically, the skills required to work in the kitchen of a chain restaurant are less than those required to work in an independent restaurant. He explained that by 'standardising' the kitchens, the labour force would be deskilled.

He said: " We have a great catering college - University College Birmingham - turning out incredible young talent here. Passionate kids, who want to make their way in the hospitality industry but if they leave college and their only option is to work at a chain restaurant, all the skills that they've learnt over the past three years will pretty much have to be thrown away. All they'll have to do is mark off boxes that have been delivered, store them in the fridge and when the order comes through, rip the seal off, put it on a plate and put it through a microwave. That's really going to have terrible implications."

Aktar added that he would like this to be part of a wider campaign, including local restaurants, chefs and consumers too. He explained that food culture is an identity and one that the city of Birmingham must preserve.

He said: "It's part of a big thing, a wider campaign that I really want to start nurturing and get some traction behind. Because my real worry is that as a city, we're going to lose it. All the work that we've put in over these years, myself, Luke (Tipping), Glynn (Purnell) and the other chefs, that's going to go by the wayside because of the amount of chains that are coming into the city."

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 10th August 2018

Aktar Islam announces third restaurant in the fight against Birmingham chain restaurants