The US food service industry represents a whopping $909 billion (Global Data), with a $10 billion catering industry channel, both set for steady growth in 2023 and beyond. Even with these numbers, food service and catering purveyors found themselves with little representation in Washington D.C. during the tumultuous pandemic years.
To gain strength during that time and ensure safety going forward, a group of 16 diversified caterers, event production and hospitality companies banded together to create Elite Catering + Event Professionals (ECEP). The collaborative global network itself represents a powerful voice in the market with more than $615 million in annual revenue among them.
“If money talks, we have the ability and the desire to say and do something significant to effect positive change,” says Susan Lacz, Inaugural President of ECEP and CEO and Principal of Ridgewells Catering. Based in the Washington D.C. metro area, Ridgewells is one of the nation’s largest privately held catering companies.
“Our industry is in dire need for advocacy, leadership, and collaboration,” Lacz continues. And she is distinctly poised with her fellow ECEP members to change that.
Lacz is joined by other founding members including ECEP Vice President Michael Stavros, Partner at M Culinary Concepts in Phoenix, Arizona. “ECEP is bringing together diversified, resilient businesses and their innovative, resourceful leaders in the catering and live events industries. With shared purpose and a unified voice, ECEP members are strengthening our respective businesses while advocating for our entire industry.”
The first action ECEP took was to align itself with an association with a powerful voice in Washington — the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA). The association worked with Congress to get the catering/food service industry declared as “essential services” and is currently advocating with the Internal Revenue Service for companies who have yet to receive their Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC).
Elite Catering + Event Professionals (ECEP) was founded in 2021 by industry experts and leaders from the world’s top catering and hospitality organizations, united by a common goal of propelling the global catering and events industry forward through innovation and bold new ideas.
From its inception, it was important that there by an education arm of ECEP. The organization held its first Symposium in March 2022 in Nashville and will hold another in 2023. At the Symposium, ECEP founders and its members redefine the hospitality industry and set new standards of excellence for companies and professionals across the world.
In 2023, the ECEP Symposium will be held in Palms Springs, California, February 27 – March 2.
Other founding members include John Crisafulli, President of Behind the Scenes Catering and Events, San Diego, California; Adam Noyes, President, and Ben Witte COO, of Proof of the Pudding, Atlanta, Georgia; and Brandon Maxwell, CEO & Cofounder of M Culinary Concepts, Phoenix, Arizona.
Find a list of all the members here.
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