One of the most widely known misconceptions in the event world is that buffets are less expensive than plated meals. While this may have been true several years ago when buffets were the popular trend of the 1980’s and 1990’s for most weddings and events, the tables have turned. The events world has changed and with it the standards of service that companies hold themselves to have changed as well. With more opportunities to personalize an event while experiencing world-class service paired with high-quality food and beverage on the rise – it is no wonder that pricing trends have changed as well.
The decision to offer your guests a plated dinner over a buffet is not just a matter of preference, but truly a matter of cost. As we have discussed previously, guest count is the number one controlling factor in managing event budgets. However, coming in a close second is what food and beverage is offered.
The more guests, the more food. The more food, the higher the cost. Why? A caterer loses portion control once the serving spoon is turned over to guests. It’s not how much they eat, it is how much they put on their plate. One of the top rules of catering is that you do not run out of food. The last person to pass through the buffet should perceive it to be as abundant as the first. To keep a buffet looking its best, more food than a typical plated meal is necessary and with that, a higher cost is the result.
Why the misconception?
Typically it is thought that by offering a buffet meal, significantly less wait staff is needed which ultimately lowers the cost of labor and is perceived as a buffet being a lower cost option. However, that is not truly the case. Every event, regardless of meal service style, deserves exceptional service and that great service stems from having a properly staffed event. Just because the number of servers needed may be slightly less overall in comparison to a plated meal – food costs do not change. This key aspect is often forgotten.
Although plated meals are more cost effective than a buffet does not mean they are any more popular. About 40% of all weddings that we cater throughout the year offer stations, a type of buffet option, at their reception. This number has increased over time with more and more couples wanting variety and the option to provide their guests with choices. Depending on the type of corporate event, buffets may be the more acceptable option given the event format. Both meal options have their positives and negatives as listed above and only you will know which is appropriate for your event.
When deciding between offering a buffet service or plated meal at your event cost is certainly a factor, as well as the type of event and atmosphere your event takes on. For some, buffet meals are more comfortable and familiar to their guest list – for others, plated meals bring about the formality and sophistication they are seeking. Regardless of your choice, you have many choices with each. Browse our buffet menus and plated meal menus to see which is more appealing to you.