Catering Service Style Breakdowns
Before you can choose between filet and chicken, it’s important to think of the way you want your event to be served. The most common choice is plated. However there is still buffet and food stations to consider. To help you decide, we have compiled a couple easy questions to help guide your choice and some basic information so you have a better idea on what to expect for each service.
What time of day is your event taking place and how formal is it?
If your event is being held during brunch or cocktail hours, a multi-course meal may not be necessary. If you’re hosting your event at a meal time, it should be more than just hors d’oeuvres. More so, the formality of your event can also dictate the style of service you select. While buffets can work very well for formal events, tradition still tends to lean towards sit-down plated meals.
Who is invited?
Always take into account who is attending. The nature of your guest list can certainly make an impact. For events with elderly or young children, buffets and food stations can be difficult to navigate.
What do you prefer?
There really isn’t a right or wrong answer on what you choose for your event. There are service styles that work better for one type of event over another. Your event specialist can give you their professional recommendation once they have a solid understanding of your event as a whole including timeline, guest count and desired setup.
Event Catering Service Styles
At a plated meal, guests are seated and served by waitstaff at tables pre-assigned by you (the client). While some events prefer open seating, we also recommend assigned tables for single-entrée plated meals and require assigned tables and seats for events offering a choice-of entrée. Plated meals are the most popular style of meal service and work great for events of all types from meetings to corporate galas, fundraisers and weddings.
This choice is usually viewed as fairly traditional but it can be modified to better suit your event. Some of our clients choose to preset their salad and/or dessert, serving only the main course. With the choice of plated meals, its important to select an entrée that has e widest appeal to your guests. Don’t rule out chicken just because it seem traditional – our menu has over 20 options! Just because it may be the safest option, it doesn’t need to be boring.
One of the biggest misconceptions about plated meal service is that it is one of the most costly. Costs are moderated by the fact that guest are served a proportioned amount of food and is entirely dependent on what you choose to serve. As we have said before guest count is one of the most important factors in terms of budget.
Buffets & Food Stations
At a buffet or food station event, guests select their food and serve themselves from long tables strategically placed throughout the room. An advantage of buffets and food stations is the varied menu that can be select and guests can choose what they would like. Many tend to think of buffets or food stations as informal, but you do not need to sacrifice sophistication. When attended to by a professional serving team using high quality equipment and serveware, buffets and food stations can be very elegant.
These service styles are great for encouraging guests to socialize, network and mingle. This can be ideal for festive affairs like weddings and event corporate events as well. While we provide beautiful serving equipment for each and every event, buffets and food stations truly look their best when clients work with their florist to add details to their buffet area that coordinate with guest table décor.
Seating guests for a buffet and food stations comes with differing opinions among some event professionals. We usually encourage assigned tables for most events. It ensures every guest has a space and that there aren’t any awkward seating groups. Some of the most popular event planning websites feel that open seating (unassigned seating) is manageable, but it can create a bit of stress for guests and a some awkward situations. Especially if a couple, as example, has to split up to be able to sit at a table to enjoy their meal.
The biggest worry many clients have with buffets and food stations is the time it takes guests to get their food and return to their seat. A well-planned buffet event may have more than one impression of the buffet to accommodate the guest count. Additionally, trained serving staff are an important part of the process. There are servers designated to the buffet to be sure it remains full and plentiful for all of the guests moving through and other servers release the tables to the buffet systematically to prevent a long line from forming.
At cocktail receptions there generally isn’t a full meal. Instead servers may circulate the room with passed hors d’oeuvres or guests may select hors d’oeuvres from stationary setups. Some events include both presentations which can add a bit more of a formality to the event.
Cocktail receptions are great for events being held in late-afternoon or early-evening. Depending on the nature of your event, you may prefer one-bite hors d’oeuvres over something a tad heavier. This tends to come to mind for corporate networking events. Fare can be light or heavy completely dependent on menu selections. Some clients opt to include action stations in their cocktail receptions to have a slightly more filling option.
If costs and time are a major consideration for your event, a cocktail reception may be the ideal option for you. Generally these events tend to be no more than two hours. Providing guest seating between standing and seated cocktail tables is completely at your discretion.