There’s a whole raft of free services available to event organisers from the Nationwide Caterers Association, writes Mark Laurie.
You may already have heard about the work the Nationwide Caterers Association (NCASS) undertakes to help mobile caterers trade successfully and safely. Yet we have a little known secret: we do loads for event organisers too, and we do it for free.
NCASS started back in the late ’80s when a small group of mobile caterers decided to improve the image and standards of the industry they loved. These days it supports 3,500 caterers across the UK, providing them with everything needed to run a profitable, safe and compliant business (from training and due diligence to work opportunities, with a whole load of other great stuff in between).
The Association is also the UK’s only primary authority for mobile caterers as it has a legally-recognised partnership with Cherwell District Council. Under the scheme this local authority partner has audited all the documentation and training NCASS provides to traders and signed it off as ‘assured advice and guidance’. Essentially this means that everything provided to traders is sensible, dependable and compliant with the law.
Under the primary authority partnership NCASS members are protected for food safety, health and safety, trading standards and fire safety. Provided they stick to the advice and documentation offered by NCASS, members will be compliant with the law and make their trading environment a safer place.
What you should look for
Event organisers should look for compliant caterers to work at their events. If any harm was ever to befall a customer due to the actions of a contracted trader organisers will need to be certain that they’re covered, and that the customer is too.
Here’s a list of the essential documentation you would hope to be able to see for every caterer you contract:
- liability insurance (employer’s, product and public cover up to at least £5m)
- COSHH risk assessment (this pinpoints risks and hazards from substances within the catering business that could cause harm to the public)
- a written health and safety policy (a legal requirement for any business that employs five or more people)
- food safety risk assessment (a legal requirement for any food business)
- health and safety risk assessment
- fire risk assessment
- gas certificate (which must have been issued by a Gas Safe registered engineer with the correct qualifications)
- evidence of food hygiene training (eg, Level 2/3 training certificate).
These are some other non-essential but good practice documents that can also come in useful during event management:
- waste control agreement
- sustainability policy
- method statement
- DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check certificate
- work unit insurance
- electrical testing certificate
- fire extinguisher certificate.
You’re probably thinking that’s an awful lot of documentation to track. Well, you’re right but the good news is that NCASS provides its members with pretty much all of the essentials.
The easy way to source safe traders
Every single NCASS caterer agrees to work to best practice. Each trader has access to the most respected and triple-accredited online training courses for mobile caterers in the country. Furthermore, they have the backing of a due diligence system that’s been labelled as ‘assured advice and guidance’ by a district council.
So, due to the NCASS primary authority partnership, when you choose an NCASS caterer to trade at your event you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you are covered and protected, and you’ll have added weight when it comes to bidding for events with your local authority. Having “all traders will be protected under the NCASS primary authority partnership with Cherwell District Council” on your application will go a long way.
Aside from safe traders, what does NCASS offer event organisers?
Every day NCASS helps event organisers manage the catering for their events by matching them with local caterers who meet their food requirements via a free SMS service called WorkOpps. Here’s how it works: you tell the Association a little about your event and choose the food you want sold on the day. NCASS texts those details to traders who fit the mould. The traders then contact you, by whatever means you have specified, and you take it from there with the peace of mind that the caterers at your event will be NCASS registered.
Darren Price used WorkOpps and commented: “Your service is spot on. I’ll always use you and recommend WorkOpps to everyone” Emma Barton said: “Thank you so much for your ‘find a caterer’ service. The form was easy to complete and we received many responses, very quickly. We were able to find a great local caterer, Pizza per Tutti, who was perfect.” You can register for WorkOpps and use the system for free as many times as you like at www.ncass.org.uk/findacaterer.
Very soon WorkOpps will be incorporated into the innovative trader management system NCASS Connect. It’s free for event organisers, enforcement officers and traders to use and will save heaps of time, money and hassle when you come to sourcing traders and managing their documents. Via Connect you can ‘create’ events and shortlist both food and non-food traders for work. Shortlisted traders will receive an email requesting their work availability and documentation including insurance certificates, risk assessments, gas certificates and more. These documents will then load onto your event screen from those who accept.
What’s great about this is that you can store the traders’ documents for the duration of the event and share that information with local authority enforcement officers. Through Connect you can ask enforcement teams to assess your shortlisted traders’ documentation. That’s good for them as they’ll be able to assess how many traders need a full inspection on-site on the day of the event, and good for you because you’ll get further reassurance from the local authority on how safe your selected traders are. In a nutshell:
- you won’t waste time chasing traders for their documents
- you can view and store traders’ documents for the duration of your event
- you’ll put the onus on the local authority to confirm it’s happy with the traders and their documents (rather than it being your responsibility)
- you can rate and comment on traders’ performances and view previous ratings
- it’s free, plus you’ll save time and money normally spent on administration
- you’ll minimise cold calls from traders when you ask them to apply for your pitches through Connect
- you’ll help your local authority to manage traders’ food safety effectively.
How do we know Connect works?
Organisers of major events use NCASS Connect. WOMAD Festival used Connect to run its entire recruitment process for last year’s event for both food and non-food traders. It’s quickly become the go-to place for street food collectives too. KERB, Digbeth Dining Club, Feast on the Street, Turntables and Scoff are regularly using Connect to manage their events and markets.
Jack Brabant, Digbeth Dining Club organiser, said: “We only use NCASS members as we want safe and professional traders. NCASS’s Connect system has helped us to demonstrate our professionalism and compliance and that of our traders to the council and it’s undoubtedly opened doors for us.” And Tony Lacey, head of Feast on the Street, said: “Connect helps us enormously because we now have a way to book, store and retrieve each trader’s paperwork at the click of a button and send that information to the EHO. This ensures that we have the necessary health and safety, food hygiene and every other bit of paperwork to hand. When you’re working with so many traders and so much admin it’s essential all is kept handy for us and any environmental health officers to check.”
Furthermore, the Food Standards Agency believes that Connect has the power to reduce the regulatory burden for food businesses, event organisers and local authorities so much so that it has included Connect in the new Food Law Code of Practice guidance notes under section 126.96.36.199.
Hop aboard the NCASS ship – for free!
You can find out more about NCASS Connect and register for free as an event organiser at www.NCASSConnect.co.uk. As soon as you’re registered you’ll be able to log in on the main NCASS site and start managing traders and documentation for all of your future events. For more information on NCASS’s services for event organisers don’t hesitate to call on 0121 603 2524 or take a look around the website at www.NCASS.org.uk
About the Author
Mark Laurie is the director at the Nationwide Caterers Association (NCASS), the only trade association and primary authority for mobile caterers and street food sellers in the UK. The NCASS mission is to provide traders with all the information, systems and support they need for a profitable, safe and legal business. From start-ups to fully-fledged mobile ventures, NCASS offers support and materials to help caterers at any stage of business. Currently looking after 3,500 UK catering businesses, NCASS continues to grow year on year as a result of its care for and support to the catering and events industry.