Whether you’re planning a wedding reception, a corporate event or a local fundraiser – one of the star attractions will be the selection of food and beverage. A big part of staging any successful event, and being a good host in general, is providing an exceptional dining service for your guests. Of course, there is simply more to it than hiring any catering service and choosing a few select items from their menu. You have to also consider what type of dinner service is right for your party (not to mention your budget).
There are several options to consider form cocktails and hors d’oeuvres to a proper plated dinner. As with any choice, there are advantages and disadvantages to each. So, to help you decide on the ideal serving style for your next event, we’ve put together a short guide to a few of the most popular meal options, highlighting the pros and cons of each.
Hors d’oeuvre Party Style
Hors d’oeuvres parties have become something of a trend over the last few years. Guests have the opportunity to mingle in a casual atmosphere while sampling some tasty bite-sized selections – and of course sharing some fine cocktails.
Hors d’oeuvres can be butler passed by servers or displayed at stations so guests can help themselves. Trained bartenders can ensure that everyone is served the drink of their choice. It is a good fit for smaller events, especially those of a more personal and festive nature.
PRO: Hors d’oeuvres are perfect if you’d like your guests to circulate in a relaxed atmosphere.
CON: Guests expecting a full meal may be disappointed, so it is important to highlight cocktail service on your event invitations.
Buffet style service is perhaps the most casual type of meal service. Guests have the opportunity to mingle and chat as they serve themselves a delicious array of expertly prepared dishes. Variety is the key here, and it makes it easier to satisfy a broader range of appetites.
PRO: Multiple menu options make it easier to satisfy all of your guests.
CON: While your menu options will be more flexible, food costs are greater because of the larger amount of food to be prepared.
Read more about the myth of buffets.
Food stations are another growing trend in party planning, and one that brings a lot of culinary excitement to an event. Multiple stations are installed in your event space, providing your guests with a variety of options. Like a buffet, your guests can mix and match from any station, creating their own dinner menu while they enjoy each other’s company.
PRO: Food stations create fun and excitement, always a plus for any event.
CON: Food stations, like a buffet, take up space in your event venue and need to be planned for. It’s important to have a facility and floor plan that can accommodate your guest seating and station layouts.
Read more about ways to spice up your event with stations.
By far the most widely known and popular dinner service, regardless of event type, is the traditional sit-down plated meal. Typically plated meals consist of three courses (salad, entree, dessert), individually served by servers. Plated dinner service is formal and elegant, and suitable for most events whether wedding, corporate or social.
PRO: Guests are served at the same time, allowing better control over the event timeline.
CON: Using a preset menu will limit your ability to offer variety, however you have greater control over accommodating special dietary requests.
Read more about catering to special diets such as food intolerances and allergies.
The style of dinner service you choose will ultimately be informed by the type of event you are staging and the atmosphere you wish to create. Of course, budgetary concerns will also figure into any final decisions, and they must be weighted accordingly. Still, whatever the event, dining service is a key component of its success, and the style of service you choose is just as important as the menu you and your caterer create.