We all know that there are many moving parts that go into planning an event. Whether it be guest lists, hotel arrangements, or decorations, there is one thing that attendees seem to notice the most- the FOOD! We all tend to rate an event’s success by how good the food is, which is why it is one of the most important aspects of planning. For such a vital aspect, it can also be one of the most complicated, especially if there is a large guestlist.
One of the major dilemmas we face is the choice between plated meals vs. a buffet. Both come with their own pros and cons and each can be the right choice depending on the specific event.
So, before you begin to stress about whether to go with a buffet or plated meal, we’ve got a few tips to help you decide which presentation is best for your event:
1. The more formal the event, the more appropriate a served meal is for the occasion. If guests are required to wear formal attire such as jackets, dresses, ties, etc., there is a good chance they don’t want to be dipping the serving spoon into the mashed potatoes themselves. Well-dressed attendees will most likely expect a served meal at their tables.
*One exception to this rule: Weddings. Some receptions are meant to be more informal and therefore fit better with a buffet-style meal.
2. As the guest list grows, the likelihood of a successful buffet shrinks. It is said that the average double-sided buffet line can serve approximately 100 guests in 30 to 40 minutes. If you have an event with a lot of guests, a buffet might not be the best choice since it will take a good amount of time for all guests to be seated with their food. A large guestlist means that some guests will get to the buffet first and be finished with their meal before others even get to try their entrée. You probably don’t want to host an event where half the attendees are sitting and waiting while the other half have only just begun enjoying their meal.
3. Is there enough space at the venue? For a successful buffet, the venue needs to have enough space for buffet lines and tables. If the venue does not include optimal space for the event room, tables, and buffet lines, a plated meal is probably the safest route to take to avoid a cramped space. Nobody likes people standing on top of them while they are trying to eat!
Like we said earlier, plated meals and buffets have their individual advantages that should be considered for each event you plan. For instance, plated meals and table service allow for conversation among guests and provides for a timelier dinner since all guests will be seated and eating at the same time.
A major benefit that buffets offer is entrée selection. Buffets can offer guest with more than two entrée selections which can help navigate dietary preferences. If you a planning a social event with a flexible timeline such as parties or luncheons, a buffet can work nicely. Another situation where buffets fit well are standing receptions or dinner events meant for food tasting. This allows planners to schedule a diverse selection of food and be creative with the presentation.
*Another helpful tip: If you want to offer guests with a wide variety of entrees but want to provide the feel of a plated meal, you can have preset salads and desserts at each place setting and allow the entrée to be buffet style. You can combine this with servers calling each table to the buffet so there is more timeliness to the event.
While these tips are important to consider when deciding between a buffet or plated meal, the most important thing to do first is talk to your client and discuss their objectives for the event. We have had clients who are totally against buffets and therefore we can quickly decide on a plated meal. If you have a client who is unsure of which food presentation they prefer, talk through these guidelines with them and get an understanding of the hopes they have for the event and you can go from there to decide which route is best.
Have another helpful tip on buffets vs. plated meals? Drop it in a comment below and we’ll share it throughout our channels!