The International Caterers Association is proud to be a resource for catering industry professionals across the globe to create connections and access education that will help catering businesses thrive.
This past year and a half, much of those efforts have been centered around support, compassionate camaraderie, and providing resources for advocacy and assistance during perhaps the most difficult era any of us can remember for our industry—and the world. A recent roundtable discussion was a magnificent display of just how passionate and unwavering catering executives can be. Led by Jonathan Jennings, executive vice president of Connecticut Wedding Group and the ICA treasurer, the group discussed the importance of advocating for your business during times of crisis—as well as how you can continue to do so during the choppy and unpredictable waters ahead. Here’s what they shared!
Understanding advocacy in the catering industry in the wake of COVID-19
The first step to advocating for your business is truly understanding what advocacy is. A simple definition of advocacy is an activity by an individual or group that aims to influence decisionswithin political, economic and social institutions.
Advocate groups come in many shapes and forms. You have organizations like ours, the ICA, which is rooted in industry education and awareness to support and inform caterers across the globe. But then you also have local groups like the Connecticut Restaurant Association and Events Industry Coalition of Connecticut, who are fighting for local catering rights and are involved with governmental issues. Then you have paid membership groups, invitation-only groups like Leading Caterers of America, and social professional groups. All serve an important role in understanding paths to advocacy in this era, and it’s important to be involved in all if you truly want to make a difference for the industry you love.
During the pandemic, Jennings was a voice in Connecticut—and nationally—to include catering companies in the restaurant restrictions and benefits. Initially, he joined the Connecticut Restaurant Association (CRA) to be more involved and ultimately used all avenues above to ensure that no conversation about restaurants excluded catering.
In order for businesses to get the support they needed financially and in terms of restrictions being lifted, the industry had to speak up, and Jennings led the pack. The CRA had media contacts to make sure the issue was heard and had relationships with the lawmakers able to implement change. Last year, they got the governor to sit down with the CRA group to hear out members’ challenges during COVID. He listened and accepted their input on how the local government could craft regulations based on the industry while still considering health and safety. This ultimately ensured that the voices of the catering industry were being heard while local policies that directly affected their businesses were being created.
Five steps to becoming a catering industry advocate now
If you want to become an advocate, here are five steps you can take today to get started!
Build your network
The more people you know, the greater influence you’ll likely be able to have. Your network—personal and professional—can never be too large! By getting to know your mayor, state representatives, governor, leaders of local catering organizations and more, you can get ahead of the next crisis. By building those relationships now, it may ensure they’re more likely to answer your call and offer support when you need them most.
Determine your involvement goals
Will you advocate on the local, state or federal level? Maybe all three! Have a goal so you don’t get too overwhelmed and have a path to follow to reach your advocacy goals. Will you do it in person? Or maybe via your social media to reach larger audiences? It’s up to you.
Take the time to educate yourself
Advocacy starts with education and learning. You must be knowledgeable and able to synthesize an informed angle to advocate for your business. Understand what’s impacting your business and the world and determine ways you think you can fix it for the greater good of all.
Pro Tip: Set up Google alerts for topics that interest you and pertain to your business so you can read and share the moment they hit the news!
Ask for help & be kind
Part of advocacy is coming together. One thing to remember is that you’re not in this fight alone. You have an entire industry, a family, behind you who will guide the way as you’re walking this path to being an advocate. Ask those who are more involved and experienced where to start if you’re not sure! Ask friends in the industry to join you in this journey.
And once you start, don’t forget to be nice to those who can help you. Elected officials have a tough gig; they’re just humans trying to do their best like we are. During crises like these, it’s easy to let emotions get in the way—stay clear, stick to the point and ask directly for what you need. You want to make it easy for the elected officials to help you out, not push them away and make their job more difficult. Work as a team and you’ll see great progress.
You don’t have to go out and lead a movement during your first weeks of becoming an advocate for our industry. Simply start with one call, one conversation, one contact.
The smallest gestures can still have a big impact!
In fact, you can start now with one small action!
By filling out this simple form, you can automatically send a message to your members of Congress, asking them to refill the Restaurant Revitalization Fund to support those independent restaurants still struggling due to the pandemic.
Join a network of professionals & passionate catering advocates with the ICA
If you’re feeling inspired and want to be surrounded by this palpable energy shared by catering industry executives, chefs and team members, join us.
Connecticut Wedding Group is a proud member of the ICA. For more information, visit internationalcaterers.org.