Many aspects go into planning an event, but catering is arguably the most influential piece of the puzzle. A chosen service style determines everything from guest seating to food selections, making it an important decision early in the process. There’s a big difference between buffet-style service and plated dinners, for example. Let’s take a look at the different options and how they are playing out in 2019.
Buffet-style dining has risen in popularity over the past year and continues to be a top choice for clients this year. The ease of self-service simplifies the experience and allows guests to choose what they want. With the increased focus on dietary restrictions, this is a great way to let guests control what ends up on their plates. As a whole, buffets provide a more relaxed and time-efficient option with the opportunity to include chef-manned stations for direct guest engagement.
Skip the continental breakfast vibe and opt for interactive stations, like omelets or tacos being constructed on a made-to-order basis. This style offers a fresh, handmade feel and can be combined with a garnish bar to provide guests with an array of toppings and sauces. These activity-centered, Instagrammable stations immerse guests into the event experience, and the possibilities are endless.
We recently created an “action” station with a chef hand-carving Iberico ham to serve with crostini and have also seen countless other ideas play out, from ceviche bars to DIY baked potato stations. Dessert stations also remain extremely popular, as wedding clients shift from a traditional cake to a variety of sweets to satisfy every palate.
Photo courtesy Jennifer Jayn Chan and Wente Vineyards
Note that anytime you have guests mingling with plates, you will need to be vigilant in your clean up. Serving help should be instructed to continually scan the venue for discarded items in the most ridiculous of places, from left atop speakers and inside plant pots to under tables and/or on restroom sinks.
Photo courtesy Ken Kienow Photography and Wente Vineyards
Family-style and plated meals are more formal than the options above, with catering staff serving to seated guests. Although we’ve seen a steady decrease in seated meals, they remain a popular choice for more traditional events, like corporate galas and formal black-tie weddings. Seated meals require extra space between tables to accommodate servers, but free up the space necessary for a buffet.
Most events have a bar to provide beverage service, but we’re looking past the traditional white linens and champagne glasses. There has been a shift toward unique barware and glassware to make a statement, with trendy metallics playing a role in this change. The interactive concept has also made its way to beverages, as we see clients prioritize the guest experience: wine tastings, beer flights, and cocktail bars filled with fruits and garnishes are all great ways to engage guests.
It’s clear that today’s service styles place a heavy emphasis on guest experience, as they look to immerse people in everything an event has to offer—not just in what’s on their plate or in their glass, but how they’re being served to engage and connect on a personal level.