One thing that has definitely changed in the last two or three decades is the number of products and services we can choose from. Obviously the Internet is a big part of this. More efficient supply chains and larger online shopping networks are another. Either way, all of these choices create a few problems of their own. Authenticity is a great example. It can be difficult to know which products are services are authentic.
With services in particular, certification becomes more important with each passing year. Whether you’re hiring a contractor to repair your roof or chiropractor to adjust your spine, finding someone you can trust is crucial. And that means finding someone who has achieved standards of certification that are recognized across their industry!
What about catering? When you’re researching caterers for your event, should you expect to find someone who is certified? If so, what kind of certifications are out there?
The short answer is that the standards required to operate a catering business will differ from state to state. In New Jersey, for example, catering falls under the “Food Retail” category. In order to be a legitimate catering business, it’s necessary to pass inspections and attain a license to operate a food retail business. Other states have other categories and descriptions for licensing of catering business.
These are, of course, the absolute minimum requirements. What about finding a caterer that goes above and beyond the minimum in terms of licensing and certification? There are certifications out there, such as the Certified Professional in Catering and Events (CPCE), which is awarded by the National Association for Catered Events (NACE).
Even a certification like this, however, is not a guarantee that you’ve found the best caterer for your event. Of course it doesn’t hurt to have more certifications – but as far as catering as concerned, credibility is something that comes primarily from communities and past clients. In other words, you can have all the certifications you want, but there’s no substitute for experience!
Catering experience is generally reflected in the reviews and testimonials of past clients. You should have no trouble finding specific accounts of events – wedding receptions, graduation parties, corporate events, and so forth – that were catered by the company you’re considering for your event. This is where you can make some real determinations about the level of service, quality, and professionalism that was delivered at past events.
The number of years a catering company has been in operation is another important indicator of experience. It’s true that some catering companies have managed to stay around a long time without building anything more than a mediocre reputation – and some of them may not have stayed current with menus, equipment, and other aspects of the trade. However, caterers who have been around longer tend to have better solutions and systems for delivering value and looking after their clients in all of the most important ways.
Lastly, no matter which caterer you choose, it’s important to make sure that you are contractually protected from any serious problems in terms of quality and service. Good catering companies will have professional contracts that do an excellent job of protecting and reassuring clients.
Good luck with your catered event!