Should you treat your party guests with a plated three-course meal (or an entire thaali) or give them the freedom to choose from various options at a buffet? There are benefits to both these options. Hence, for today’s article, we’ve gathered inputs from industry veterans, who have seen hundreds of events and dozens of meal styles. We hope this helps you decide on the right option for your "special occasion."
Factors at Play
The decision to choose a buffet meal or a sit-down dinner depends on several factors, apart from your personal preference. Before you decide on the meal style, you have to consider several factors like the age of the attendees, setting, nature, type of the event, the event duration, time, and so on, apart from the taste of the food you serve, external factors like the presentation and the method of doing to determine the levels of guest satisfaction.
If you choose one format without considering all these factors, you could end up with an event where your guests leave unhappy. So, make sure to factor in all these elements before you arrive at a decision.
The caterer should not just look at you as a client. They should exhibit a keen interest in your event and look for innovative ways to deliver the best at your event.
Look for a food caterer in Gurgaon who is open to critiques and new ideas. They should not just focus on the foods they serve but also ensure that the menu fits the theme and overall concept of your event.
The Ground Rules
Here are a few rules of thumb to help you decide. In short, the more formal an event, the more appropriate it is to serve a plated meal for the occasion. If you instruct your guests to arrive at the event wearing black ties, dinner jackets, and elegant evening gowns, then it goes without saying that they can expect a formal table-service meal. After all, no one wants to lug around a plate of channa bhatura in their Sunday best.
On the other hand, if you don’t have a dress code or it’s more of an informal gathering, then buffet meals work better. This is because no one wants to spend a significant portion of the party at a table when they could be socializing with others.
The other factor to consider while choosing the right meal style for your event is the number of attendees and the size of the venue. The average double-sided buffet table can serve around 100 guests within thirty to forty minutes. So, if you have double this number of guests, then you’ll have to add in an extra buffet line.
With a large number of guests, the efficiency of a buffet decreases. At some point, you will run out of enough space to accommodate both the buffet lines and the space required for your guests. A shortage of space could lead to chaotic traffic flow.
Having established the basic rules, let’s take an in-depth look at the pros and cons of both these styles.
Plated Meals (Served Meals)
Everyone loves to have their food served at their places, instead of fetching it themselves. Also, table served meals enable a smooth conversation among your guests and ensures that each guest is served each course at the same time.
It eliminates the time spent on navigating traffic around the buffet tables and energy expended on crossing the maze of tables and chairs as you get up to fetch your food every time.
Additionally, plated meals are the best way to let your guests soak in a beautiful presentation that your caterers have painstakingly created.
Plated meals mean extra preparation work for the party organizers. You have to communicate meal cards with your guests in advance and know if attendees have any special dietary requests.
Additionally, you have to ensure that the menu items you choose to serve accommodate the taste preferences of all your guests. Even after careful planning, you can satisfy the tastes of everyone.
With a buffet meal, you have two significant benefits. The first one is that you can offer a variety of entrees to please the tastes of everyone. For instance, different entrees like fish, chicken, and vegetarian, are sure to appease the tastes of all your guests.
The second most significant benefit is that guests take what they wish, instead of being served the same item. This way, you minimize food wastage while catering to individual preferences.
Buffets work best for informal events like luncheons, parties, cocktail get-togethers, and so on. This is because these events are more for socializing rather than focusing on the timely service of meals.
Additionally, when deciding on the menu for buffet events, you can be a bit more adventurous and try out new cuisines and delicacies, while providing a few safe options for picky eaters.
One of the most significant drawbacks of buffet meals is that it becomes difficult to accommodate a larger number of guests. Additionally, older guests and young children find it challenging to navigate among the crowded tables and chairs while holding plates laden with food and glasses of drinks.
Additionally, since food is self-serve, the chances of wowing each guest with elaborately plated meals are reduced.
Now that we’ve given you the pros and cons of each meal service, consider your requirements to choose the best one that suits your specific needs.
Apart from these two popular styles, there are other meal service types like:
• Hybrid Buffet Meals – As the name implies, this is a combination of plated and buffet meals. Salads, desserts, and bread service are done at the table, while guests can choose entrees and sides from the buffet table.
• Live Stations – These are individual booths where a chef prepares hot food during the mealtime and makes slight modifications to the dish, based on guest preferences. Some examples of live stations include omelet stations, noodle bars, mocktail bars, etc.
• Butlered Hors D’Oeuvres Service – Food is placed on trays and circulated at your event venue by servers. Guests then pick what they want from these trays. This works well for small bites or finger food.
• Family Style – Guests are seated around tables. And, large bowls of food are placed in the center. Guests can help themselves to it, family-style. As each bowl gets empty, servers replenish it and then move on to the next course.
Like all aspects of event planning, what works for a particular group of people may not work for the next. So, ensure that the final decision on what type of meal service to provide at your event depends on the individual requirements and style of your event.