It’s all about the service…The Pros & Cons

Often times we’re so focused on what’s on the menu and forget about how the menu is going to be served. Let’s look at the Pros and Cons of popular event service types.


Oh the choices!: Guests love to have the option of what they want to eat, and buffets allow them to get what they want and how much of it they want as well.

Variety: Deciding on a set menu can be difficult, especially when you have a great caterer with so many great dishes. With a buffet deciding on what to serve is much easier, as you are able to give your guests more than just one chicken, beef and fish option.

“Sorry to be a bother”: When guests have to send back a meal, its uncomfortable for everyone. The guest feels bad, the waiter feels bad and frustrated and while you, the host might not know about it, you’ll see it in your pockets. Buffets avoid ” send backs “, if a guest doesn’t like an item, they can simply leave it and get something else instead.

Relaxed and conversational: Buffets are great for guests to mingle and network. If your event has a programming piece, make sure to allot time for your guests to eat and network with each other.

Not Budget Friendly: When doing a buffet, caterers have to a lot for various (usually larger than expected ) portions, which means you will end up paying a higher per person cost. BUT: Depending on if you go self-serve or staffed you might make up the difference on your staffing costs.

“Why the wait?”: Buffet lines can be very slow and have the potential of disturbing the flow of your venue. When doing buffets make sure everything is as easy as possible for your guests; clear labeling on items, correct serving utensils and easy pick up of plates and tableware.

Not ” green ” friendly: Buffets tend to generate a lot of waste. Guests tend to have eyes bigger than their stomach, leaving plenty of leftovers on their plates and since the caterer is generally overestimating, the potential of leftovers is high.

Helpful Tip: You paid for it, its yours. Often times you will find caterers packing up leftover or uncooked food and taking it back with them. (I’ve worked as catering staff, I know) Be on hand to make sure you get everything that you paid for. And to avoid ” feeding of the staff “, ask if your caterer provides a staff meal, they should.

Formal Sit Down Service

One word. Classic. With the right staffing, traditional and formal sit down service sets the tone for your event.

P for Perfect Presentation: Caterers love to show of their food presentations skills, and plated service gives them the perfect opportunity to do so. Take advantage of it! It definitely adds to the wow factor of your event.

Control: There is total control of your servers. You can direct them to go faster or slower based on how you want your event to flow. As opposed to buffets, where you are really counting on the pace of your guests.

Helpful Tip: If you’re looking to speed up your formal service, have the salad and/or dessert preset on the table to cut down on service time.

“Oh, you were there?”:
 With formal service, the amount of time guests can interact with each other is limited. The guests are forced to sit down at their table, with the other 7 – 9 guests, they miss the opportunity to interact with others. For formal service, try adding a reception before or after the program and service time.

No Shows: Since you are paying per plate with formal service, no shows can definitely cost you a pretty penny. It’s always important to gather RSVPs before hand and remind your guests of the event 48 hours before the event, to eliminate no shows. But you are bound to have a few ” no-shows ” no matter how much planning you do ahead of time.

Try mixing some non traditional service types into your event.

Butlered Service is perfect for cocktail receptions, as it allots for plenty of conversation between guests. It’s a budget friendly option because your guests tend to eat less when walking and networking. It also allows the planner to monitor how much goes out and when, if coordinated with the catering staff. By combining butlered service with buffet, try serving your more expensive dishes via butlering, such as your shrimp and prime cuts of beef. This will cut down on the popular items going too fast.

Helpful Tip: Plan out multiple routes for your servers. You tend to get the ” door hogging ” guests who stand post right by the exit of your serving staff and devour the food before the servers get to the rest of the party.

Family Style service is where each table is served full platters of the menu and are able to make their plate themselves. It’s a more controlled form of buffet service. I have gotten rave reviews on the family style service because it promotes and encourages dinner conversation. It’s very easy and fast service, as usually a whole table can be served at one time. And for the pockets it’s so much easier to control and limit food and staffing costs.

No matter what type you choose remember it is always all about great service!


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