Among the many considerations buyers should bring to the table when selecting a designer and manufacturer for their next cart or kiosk are the certifications the company has earned.
An analogy from the consumer world is the NHTSA safety rating. That's the system that gives cars starred rankings on how well they perform in accident scenarios. Auto shoppers have come to value that data and include it in their decision-making process.
The same is true for Carfax. A couple of years ago, few people had heard of the auto history database. Now it's hard to imagine buying a used car without getting one of its reports. The list of a car's previous owners, major repairs and accidents is relied upon significantly in a market known for deceptive practices.
There is something very reassuring that when you place your life in someone else's hands that an unbiased third-party has checked into the matter and found things to be up to par.
While it's unlikely — though not out of the question — that someone's life might be at stake if a food cart or kiosk doesn't meet certain standards, it surely is possible that someone's business could hang in the balance.
Two key certifications we believe in very much are those we have from UL and NSF. We display their logos on our website very proudly to evidence our commitment to their focus on safety and standards.
UL is Underwriters Laboratory. It's stated mission is to certify, validate, test, inspect, audit, advise and educate, all concerning critical safety issues for manufacturers and others. NSF, like UL, also tests products and systems to ensure they are safe for private and public use.
These imprimaturs are important for several reasons.
- They verify that an impartial party has compared products and systems against established criteria.
- They put weight into the words of companies that claim they are safety-conscious.
- They help manufacturers come to market with products sooner because they have a head-start on certifications.
- Companies who have gone through the effort to obtain the certifications are generally more quality-conscious in all that they do.
But here is an important caveat: Without the actual trademarked symbol of UL or NSF on a company's site or collaterals, you can't be sure the company really is certified and not just claiming to be.
There have been cases where a manufacturing company in the space claimed NSF certification while at the same time they were using unapproved materials. NSF representatives said they only go after companies that use the logo misleadingly, and since this company was making the claim just with words, there was nothing to be done.
True certification costs money and time, entailing lots of paperwork and annual inspections and reviews. But it's an investment that's important to us because we believe it's important for our customers.
The true essence of a successful cart or kiosk project is that it improves the guest experience. Nothing is more central to that than a safe environment. Food vendors, restaurateurs and retailers can feel more comfortable their customers are in good hands when all their providers and suppliers have gone to outside parties to ensure products are tested, reliable and safe.
/ Greg Swistak is the president of Ikoniq, a provider of custom carts, kiosks and repurposed shipping containers.