The Clink Charity runs training restaurants at four prisons across the UK. Images talks to them about the need for clearly defined uniforms and the generosity of sponsors Dennys

In 2009, the first Clink restaurant opened at HMP High Down in Surrey. “The then catering manager Alberto Crisci MBE saw potential in prisoners working in the kitchens,“ explains Chris Moore, chief executive of The Clink Charity. “He recognised the need for more formal training and introduced City & Guilds NVQs. The charity helps offenders break the cycle of crime by nurturing self-belief, workplace skills and mentoring prisoners to help them find employment upon release.“

Since then three more restaurants have been established at HMP Brixton, HMP Cardiff and HMP Styal. The restaurants, which are open to the public, each train up to 30 prisoners at a time. The charity also runs Clink Events, which offers external catering services for private cocktail parties and receptions.

The staff have been wearing uniforms from Dennys since they first opened because, says Chris, they are known within the industry for their quality and reliability. Then, in 2012, Dennys approached The Clink Charity with a sponsorship proposal, which was readily accepted. “Dennys very kindly sponsor our uniforms and have allocated a sum of money to support The Clink Charity annually,“ says Chris. “Once this generous pot of money is used up we purchase any additional uniform items directly from them to ensure our teams look consistent across all the restaurants.“

A supplier that can offer a wide variety of garments is paramount, as Chris explains: “We have a need for separate uniforms, not just for the chefs and front of house, but also for Clink trainers and the trainee prisoners, to clearly differentiate between team members. This means that we need a uniform supplier that can provide a range of options to suit our needs.

“The prisoner chefs in training wear traditional whites and blue checked trousers with non-slip shoes. Our employee chef trainers wear black chef jackets with their name embroidered on with a black skull cap, black and white checked trousers and non-slip shoes.

“The prisoner waiters in training in our restaurants inside the walls wear non-slip shoes, grey flannel trousers, grey polo shirts with The Clink Restaurant logo on and a checked waistcoat. In the restaurants outside of the walls the prisoners in training wear traditional black and white trousers and shirts or blouses. The Clink’s front of house staff wear business suits. All Clink prisoner trainees look presentable and consistent across the restaurants and the uniforms themselves continue to look great and are durable – a vital feature when working in a fast-paced restaurant and kitchen.”

The reasoning behind the choice of garments is simple: “In the kitchen the prisoners need to be wearing different clothing to The Clink employee chefs, and front of house the prisoner waiters need to be wearing something that guests will not be wearing so they are easily identifiable.“

All the uniforms are embroidered with The Clink logo and the Dennys logo, with embroidery chosen for its durability. “We are proud to be associated with Dennys and try to highlight the incredible support we receive from the hospitality industry as much as possible,“ comments Chris. “As charity-run prisoner training  schemes we rely heavily on suppliers to provide us with free or heavily discounted equipment and produce. We work with some of the best names in the industry to ensure the trainees are familiar with the highest quality tools that they are likely to encounter in a professional working environment once they are released.

“As a charity we invest as much of our revenue as possible back into the prisoner training programmes we provide. If suppliers are able to donate products and services for free, it means we can reduce our overheads and rehabilitate more prisoners by opening more training projects.“ His advice to suppliers: pick up the phone. “Working with charities is great for businesses as it gives them something positive to shout about, builds their corporate social responsibility image and helps charities to do more.“

Trainee chefs wear traditional whites

Some of the dishes that are prepared and served by prisoner trainees at The Clink restaurants. The staff have been wearing uniforms from Dennys since they first opened