Wedding food gets a bad reputation for being overpriced and underwhelming. While the first half of that statement might be true (couples spent an average of $6,700 on catering in 2018), the last part doesn’t have to be – if you hire the right caterer.

To find a reputable caterer who will wow your guests with high quality, flavorful dishes, here are a few tips from industry experts.

1. Book your venue first

“Don't go reaching out to caterers until you have confirmed a venue, an approximate guest count and budget in mind. These are all keys factors that will give you the most accurate quote,” advises Roslyn Barrutia, events and sales coordinator at The Peached Tortilla catering company.

It is also helpful to confirm your location first since many wedding venues have a list of required or recommended caterers.

2. Read the reviews

Use the power of the internet to your advantage by reading online reviews of potential catering companies. While one bad review certainly shouldn’t turn you off, you should look for patterns such as tardiness or poor food quality among multiple reviews.

3. Be upfront with your budget

Talking about money is never easy, but it’s crucial to getting the best deal possible for your big day.

“Be transparent with your caterer about your budget because they can offer suggestions to bring down costs and know what your priorities are,” says Barrutia.

4. Pay attention to red flags

One major warning sign of trouble is slow response times. If you’re constantly struggling to get ahold of your potential caterer or waiting days (or weeks!) in between answers, start looking for other options says Barrutia.

Another place to look for red flags: the kitchen. “If you are able, do an onsite walk through of the kitchen and look for how clean and organized the space is. If you wouldn’t want to eat out of the kitchen immediately, you probably won’t want the food that will arrive on your wedding day,” advises Shawn Niles, executive chef for Fat Pastor Productions.

5. Ask plenty of questions

Just because a caterer’s food looks good online – or even tastes good in person – doesn’t mean they’re the right fit for your event. So don’t be afraid of asking too many questions. Here are a few must-ask questions, according to Niles and Barrutia.

• Do you serve multiple weddings on a single day? (You want your event to be the focus of their efforts!)

• Do you use frozen or fresh ingredients? Where do you source your ingredients from?

• How do you handle dietary restrictions?

• Do you use in-house staff or contractors?

• Do you cook food onsite or do you transport food from your kitchen to the venue? (This might depend on the venue, but you want your meals to be fresh)

• How do you handle gratuity? Is it included in the quote or added later?

• How much time and labor do you need for set-up, service and breakdown?

• Have you catered at my chosen venue before?

• What is your cancellation policy?

• Do you offer payment plans? When are deposits and final payments due?

• What makes your catering company stand out?

6. Choose someone who listens

Ultimately, what makes a caterer great is how they (literally) cater to the bride and groom’s vision.

“An outstanding caterer will want to get to know the bride and groom, hear their story and create a menu based on the information given,” says Niles. “There is no right or wrong thing to serve at a wedding – it’s all about the ideas and dreams of the bride and groom!”

©CTW Features