“The catering industry is currently experiencing a major skills shortage, so highly qualified chefs and waiting staff are extremely sought after,” says Christopher Moore, Chief Executive of The Clink Restaurant Company. “The Clink Charity helps solve both of these issues that, in their own ways, have an impact on society.”
Christopher Moore was speaking as The Clink Restaurant Company became the proud winner of the Ambassador to the Industry award at this year’s Caterer.com People Awards. Presented at the Park Plaza, Westminster Bridge on October 12, the awards celebrated the finest achievements in hospitality recruitment, retention and development.
The prestigious Ambassador to the Industry award seeks to recognise long term success in championing the spirit of the hospitality sector by an individual or a team, and work that nurtures careers and talent. To say that The Clink embodies this award would be an understatement. The Clink’s work in training prison learners and equipping them with the skills and confidence to build careers upon their release, is vital.
Christopher Moore commented, “It is a great honour for The Clink team to have won this prestigious award in recognition of our work.”
The Clink has had enormous success in reducing reoffending rates through accredited City & Guilds NVQ training in food preparation and food service, thus equipping prisoners and ex-offenders with formalised education and valuable soft skills that help them to gain employment upon their release.
The story of The Clink Restaurant Company began in 2009, when the first restaurant opened at HMP High Down in Surrey. The then catering manager, Alberto Crisci, identified the need to provide formal qualifications and support for prisoners that can be utilised in the outside world. Soon after, The Clink opened Bromley Gardens, enabling prisoners to train in horticulture. The gardens also grew three quarters of the vegetables and herbs used in the restaurant. A second restaurant opened at HMP Cardiff in 2013, with HMP Brixton opening the following year. In addition, Click Events provides external catering for parties and receptions.
Since the opening of HMP High Down, The Clink has trained more than 800 prisoners and currently works with up to 160 learners per day. Whether working in the kitchens or gardens, prisoners are gaining valuable work experience but they are also regularly assessed, enabling them to work towards formal qualifications in Food Preparation, Food Service, Food Hygiene and Horticulture.
“Today’s challenge is that there are more than 84,000 adults in prison in the UK and of those released, 46% return to prison within the first year. Also, 47% of prisoners say they have no qualifications, so supporting them to achieve this and increase their self-worth gives them the tools to break the cycle of crime and build a positive future for them and their families.” says Christopher Moore.
All prisoners who train with The Clink now follow a five step programme – Recruit, Train, Support, Employ, Mentor – a process which helps with training and securing employment. Even after release and gaining work, ex-offenders continue to be mentored by The Clink, ensuring rehabilitation is as painless as possible.
The great news is that thanks to The Clink’s efforts, re-offending rates of those involved with the programmes have reduced dramatically, down from 45% to 12.5% within the first year of release. In addition, more than 200 top employers, including Carluccios, Wahacca, The Lancaster London Hotel and Mosimann, are happy to take on The Clink graduates.
To top all of this, the quality of food and service from Clink restaurants has been lauded, with The Daily Telegraph praising waiting staff at HMP Brixton for striking “the right balance between friendliness and professionalism”, and The Standard referring to a chocolate and pear tart as “glorious”.
The Clink Restaurant Company continues to go from strength to strength. Looking toward the future, Christopher Moore says, “The plan moving forward is to continue to grow The Clink concept with the aim of having 20 prisoner training schemes in operation across the UK by 2020. We will be announcing the next three training projects over the next six months, so there are plenty of exciting things coming up.”
Congratulations to The Clink Restaurant Company on their well deserved win of the Ambassador of the Year award at our Caterer.com People Awards 2016.