Employing offenders is not an idea entertained by many entrepreneurs, but a Norfolk businesswoman who has made a success of the unconventional business model is now planning to take it on the road.
Davina Tanner, founder of Café Britannia, based her business around giving prisoners the chance to rehabilitate through meaningful employment and has been providing that opportunity to inmates at HMP Norwich for four years.
With her two cafés on Britannia Road near the category B prison and at the city’s historic Guildhall doing well, she is preparing to take her social enterprise outside Norfolk.
After bring approached by HMP Coldingley, near Woking in Surrey, Café Britannia will be opening another branch near the prison later this year which will be staffed by inmates. The category C training prison was among the first “reform prisons”, where prisoner education is a priority.
Ms Tanner said: “It is a good opportunity for us.
“As a reform prison they have a lot more autonomy on how they manage themselves. We decided it was a good match.
“It will be 60 to 70 seats in total, but we will not be able to expand like we have on Britannia Road.”
A former general manager at intu Chapelfield, Ms Tanner left the shopping centre in 2013 to open Café Britannia. The joint project with prison governor Will Styles earned her an OBE in 2015.
While the social enterprise is still growing financially, with turnover topping £1.6m in the year to December 31 2016 and likely to be closer to £2m this year, it continues to have a positive impact on its employees, of whom there are now more than 60.
Ms Tanner said: “Our re-offending rates are still really low and 90% of the guys have a job when they leave the prison.
“We are delivering well on social impact and growth.”
In April the café announced it would be taking its new food vans, Claude and Mollie, around the city’s parks and to events across Norfolk in the coming months, including the Royal Norfolk Show.
One of the vans will be taken to HMP Coldingley this month to drum up interest for the new café.
At the end of last year a new shop was opened at the Britannia Road site selling upcycled items, and Ms Tanner said talks are under way with other prisons to start up an upcycling workshop for inmates.
Source: Eastern Daily Press