Social enterprise restaurant chain tops TripAdvisor

Social enterprise The Clink is now the number one ranked restaurant on Tripadvisor.

The four restaurants located in or just outside prisons have each become the top ranked in their respective areas on TripAdvisor, and the reviews are gushing.

Satisfied customers have praised the food, atmosphere and service on the reviews website, with many reporting returning for special occasions like birthdays or anniversaries.

The Cardiff restaurant has over 1,000 five star reviews, and recently received the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Award for the 10th Best Restaurant in the UK. 

Chris Moore, chief executive of The Clink Charity says, “One of the biggest challenges we face as a charity is public misconceptions of prisoners and rehabilitation. Having this feedback from our diners provides evidence that we’re combating these views and are helping people to understand how important a part education and meaningful work plays in reducing reoffending rates."

The first Clink restaurant was set up at HMP High Down in Surrey in 2009, four years after the prison catering manager Alberto Crisci first conceived the idea of a restaurant manned entirely by inmates. 

Crisci identified the need to provide prisoners with work experience, qualifications and formal training in order for them to re-integrate into society and find employment after their release. 

Since then the Clink Restaurants have gone from strength to strength, with branches being opened at HMP Cardiff, HMP Brixton and HMP Styal in Cheshire. 

Over 800 prisoners have undertaken the Clink programme, which has reduced reoffending rates dramatically from the UK average of 46% reoffending within 12 months to less than 10%.

The Clink programme involves five steps: recruit, train, support, employ and mentor. The steps work to keep reoffending rates down by providing inmates with support after they serve their time, as well as the skills and experience they gain during their incarceration. 

Post release support includes interview, CV and cover letter training as well as employment and skills workshops. 

The social enterprise works closely with companies in the hospitality industry, with the aim of securing employment for graduates of the programme directly after they leave prison. Mentors also check in on ex-prisoners regularly to track their progress once in employment.

The Clink has also branched out from its starting point as a restaurant; it now also operates two horticulture schemes as well as an event catering service. Two cookbooks with recipes by Clink trainees, graduates and ambassadors have also been launched. 

Three quarters of the vegetables and herbs used at Clink Restaurants and by the events team is grown in the two Clink Gardens. The Gardens are located at HMP Cardiff and HMP Send in Surrey, a female prison, and also follow the Clink five step programme.

Clink Events provides external catering for cocktail parties and receptions, with canapés freshly prepared in Clink restaurant kitchens. The organisation works with similar charities like Centrepoint to find servers for the canapés, training their homeless clients in food service skills.

Picture credit: The Clink Charity