1. ITV Report

New Middlesbrough restaurant to give former offenders and addicts 'a second chance'

Andy Preston outside the site that will soon be The Fork restaurant Credit: Dave Allen

A new Middlesbrough restaurant will open on Christmas Eve - staffed by ex-offenders, recovering addicts and long term unemployed in order to give them a second chance in life.

The Fork in the Road, will see highly experienced catering professionals act as mentors for trainees who would otherwise struggle to get work.

The Fork in the Road is based on Middlesbrough’s Linthorpe Road, in previously derelict premises once occupied by popular toy shop, Romer Parrish, opposite the town’s booming Baker Street and Bedford Street regeneration zone.

Two former offenders are among the restaurant’s first recruits, including a Redcar teenager whose job as a kitchen porter is his first ever employment after serving a year in prison.

"The Fork in the Road is dedicated to serving fantastic food but, even more importantly, changing lives.

“We’re liaising closely with the Probation Service and other authorities to identify the right people to support, whilst we’re also working with a local college to create a training programme that will prepare those who need help into employment to prepare for a working environment.

We've created 11 jobs from the outset, but we plan to create many more volunteering, training and employment opportunities for some of the most vulnerable in our society over the next two years.

“Those we’re supporting will work alongside and learn from highly experienced and skilled restaurant staff to ensure our standards are high and they learn from the best.”

– Businessman and charity leader Andy Preston, who chairs the charity behind the not-for- profit social enterprise
Credit: Fork in the Road

The man behind the initiative Andy Preston has revealed that the restaurant will be the first on Teesside to have a “no tips” policy, with customers instead being charged a slight premium on food to allow the restaurant to pay staff a higher wage.

Customers will also be offered a £10 “sharing dish” that, rather than featuring food, is an opportunity for them to make a donation to some of Teesside’s most vulnerable people.

Any profits the restaurant makes will also be used solely for the benefit of Teesside’s most vulnerable.

The Fork in the Road is being funded by Middlesbrough-based national charity CEO Sleepout and Public Health England.