Thank you, and welcome to the seventh annual British Kebab Awards.

Better than the BAFTAS.

Bigger than the Booker.

More opulent than the Oscars.

Tonight we celebrate the mighty kebab 🙂

My name is Ibrahim Dogus and I am the founder of the British Kebab Awards. 

It is my great pleasure to be here for the seventh year. 

And here to join us in the crowd, convinced of the crowning glory of the kebab, who do we have?

I see representatives of the media Financial Times, Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mirror, The Spectator, New Statesman and many others.

I see parliamentarians: including the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, Minister without Portfolio Brandon Lewis MP and so many other Members of Parliament, members of the House of Lords and councillors. 

And our friends from the trade unions: Unite the Union, GMB, ASLEF, Unison and TSSA. 

And our sponsors and supporters. 

Graham Corfield and Ben Carter from Just Eat have been great friends of the British Kebab Awards for several years now. 

Just Eat supports, not just the kebab industry, but also restaurants and takeaways serving curry, Chinese, fish and chips, and pizza and other cuisines.

Ben, I know this is your first event since a recent spell in hospital, so I am glad you chose the British Kebab Awards to aid your recovery.

Seriously though, Graham and Ben, you guys are great friends and thank you so much for being our sponsors this evening.  

I must mention all of our sponsors: Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and their out of home Channel Director Jose-Louis Dorado; Quandoo, and their managing director Matt Simpkin; Cobra beer, and Lord Bilimoria and Samson Sohail; Big K and Mike Theodorou; Booker and Makro and their sales director Darren Bown, and Toyota and Jas Dhand – thank you to all of our friends and sponsors, old and new. 

I mentioned some of our friends in other food sectors. 

I am the first-ever chair of the British Takeaway Campaign, and many of the BTC members are with us: the National Federation of Fish Fryers, the Bangladesh Catering Association, and so many others.

We celebrate not only the kebab’s rightful place of one of the nation’s favourite foods, but also all the hard-working people who make it happen – investors and entrepreneurs, cooks and chefs, servers and riders, waiters and washers. All of the people who work hard, get up early, stay up late, and keep on smiling.  

Truly the heroes of our culinary tradition.

People across the nation have been nominating their favourite takeaways and restaurants, and tonight we will hear the winners.

There are past winners here with us this evening. But whether you win or lose this evening, to be nominated is a great honour, and you are all winners really. 

In each of the six previous years, I have told you about how important kebabs are to our local economy. 

How the kebab industry creates wealth and jobs, provides an entry point into the labour market. 

How kebab shops are part of the glue holding communities together, how they are the light that never goes out on the high street. 

How kebabs are the national dish, enjoyed by millions of people. 

This year, I have some new evidence to make the case for the kebab.

We asked the survey company Survation to ask people about kebabs. They surveyed over a thousand people in January, and here are the results: 36% of the British population reported they had eaten a kebab in the last month, that’s over a third of the British people.

Kebabs are loved by young people – 63% of 18 to 24 year olds ate a kebab in the last month. 

Over half of Londoners had eaten a kebab,

We asked people about their political views – 44% of Labour voters had eaten a kebab, but only 25% of Conservative voters.

38% of Remain voters, but only 30% Leavers.

The most popular way of getting a kebab is to get it delivered.

And here’s the really important news – doner is the nation’s favourite type of kebab, and lamb is the nation’s favourite filling. 

So there we have it – the person ordering a kebab tonight is most likely to be a young Londoner who voted Remain and who supports Labour, and orders delivery of a lamb doner kebab.

You know, I think I know this guy!

Of course, these are just headlines. 

Tonight we celebrate kebabs in all their shapes, tastes and sizes, in restaurants, takeaways and deliveries, and in every part of the United Kingdom. 

We recognise the value of the takeaway industry to the UK economy:

The public spent £9.9bn on takeaways last year, with spending predicted to grow to £11.2bn by 2021. 

The Takeaway Economy Report also reveals: 

Spending on takeaways across the UK supports 231,350  jobs, more than telecoms, advertising and premier league football – with 41,000 new jobs created since 2009.

But it is not all good news – over a third of the 300 takeaways surveyed by Just Eat say they are experiencing skills shortages, particularly for chefs, front of house staff and delivery drivers. 

Over a third (37%) believe the UK’s decision to leave the EU will make it harder to recruit staff for their business,  while 29% say they need to recruit skilled labour from outside the EU.

Our industry is an innovator – almost 35,000 establishments now use online apps. 

Nearly three-quarters (72%) of takeaways surveyed say these have been positive for their business. 

More than a third (39%) are seeing a rise in the number of deliveries outside normal meal times, since using apps – such as at breakfast or lunchtimes. 

And takeaways are increasingly catering for consumer demand for healthier options, with 73% offering smaller portion sizes, 65% offering lower fat and 59% offering low salt options.

Most (88%) view being a valued part of the local community as important or very important. More than two-fifths are actively involved in community-based activities – of these, 62% sponsor local events or sports teams, and 61% provide food to charities, care homes or for local events.

I want to talk now about immigration.

We celebrate the Kurdish and Turkish people and all other communities who are the backbone of the industry.

Many of them immigrants to this country.

Immigrants are the people who put the Great into Great Britain.

Immigrants bring fresh ideas, new businesses, and aspiration to our country.

Immigrants work hard, pay their taxes, serve their communities, put down roots and breathe life into the nation.

Study after study has shown that immigrants make a net contribution to the British economy, creating jobs and generating wealth.

So let’s celebrate immigration, let’s celebrate immigrants, no matter where they come from. 

It’s not where you’re from, it’s what you bring that matters.

It’s what you do that matters. 

It’s where you’re heading that matters. 

And after Brexit, let’s hope we don’t become closed off and frightened as a nation, hiding behind the English Channel. 

Because that’s never been part of our story, that’s not who the British people are.

Brexit is a national tragedy. Nothing in the past two and a half years has persuaded me otherwise. So I say it again – Brexit is a national tragedy.

I just hope the divided nation can come together after Brexit and unite once again around what makes us great. 

Lastly, let me thank the team here at Park Plaza Hotel and Madhus Catering, and the people who made tonight happen – Niall, Ayla, Svetlana, Ali Haydar, Elif and Adnan.  

Remember you are helping raise money for charitable organisations, including CEFTUS the Centre for Turkey Studies.

And finally, the most important person here tonight, my partner on this journey, the most beautiful woman in the room, my wife Raife, and also to our wonderful son, Mirzan.

Thank you all, and have a great evening.