When planning an event, there are several things you should think about covering. One important thing you shouldn’t get confused about is how you’re going to serve food to guests. There are many different ways to do this, so choose the best style of serving for your next event. Often the style of service will influence the types and varieties of food the caterer can offer. For example, food that will be on trays served by servers at the afternoon reception should be easy to handle. Dishes with sauces, which can spill, should be avoided, when easy-to-eat appetizers would be a better idea.
1. Reception service
Light meals are served buffet style on a table. The guests rise and serve themselves. The dishes are “appetizers”. It is inappropriate to serve foods that require a knife or are difficult to eat standing up.
2. Appetizer service
Food is placed on trays in the kitchen and passed through waiters. This is a typical serving style used for high-end entertaining. This style of serving is only suitable for “appetizers”.
3. Buffet service
The food is laid out on tables. Customers generally move along the buffet and serve themselves. When their plates are full, the guests bring them to a table. Waiters usually provide drink service at the table. A very elegant buffet would require servers to carry guests’ plates to their tables.
4. Action Stations
Similar to a buffet. The chefs prepare and serve the dishes at the buffet (rather than in the kitchen). Dishes that lend themselves well to action station service include wok stations, mash bars, fajitas, pastas, grilled meats, omelettes, pancakes, sushi, desserts and salads.
5. Cafeteria service
Similar to a buffet. Guests line up but don’t serve themselves. They are served by chefs and/or waiters located behind the buffet. It’s an easy way to control portion sizes. Sometimes inexpensive items, such as salads, will be self-serve and more expensive meat items will be served by a server.
6. Plated buffet service
Selection of foods such as entrees, sandwich plates and salad plates, are placed on a buffet table. They can also be placed on a roll-in (i.e. rolling cart or table) and then transferred to the function room at the designated time. Due to the individual plates, trays are usually used. This is a great idea for groups that want to keep “working” while eating.
7. Plate service (American)
The guests are seated. Food is pre-distributed in the kitchen, arranged on plates and served by servers on the left. Drinks are served from the right. It is the most functional, widespread, economical, controllable and efficient type of service. However, if foods are prepared too far in advance, they may mix, discolor, or even lose their culinary quality.
8. Family Service (English)
The guests are seated. Large trays and bowls are filled with food in the kitchen and set up on dining tables by waiters. Guests serve themselves on a turntable or pass the food to each other. From time to time, a host comes to cut the meat.
9. Predefined Service
The food is already on the tables when the guests are seated. Since the preset foods will be on the tables minutes before you eat them, you should only prepare those that will maintain their sanitary and culinary qualities at room temperature. Bread and butter are the most common, but often the appetizer will also be ready. For short lunches, salads and desserts are sometimes preset.
10. Hand service
The guests are seated. There is one server for every two guests, and all guests at the table are served at exactly the same time. Servers wear white gloves. The food is already on the plates and the plates come with domed lids. Each server carries two portions and stands behind the two guests assigned to him. Under the direction of the captain or butler, all portions are placed in front of all guests and their domes removed at the same time. This procedure can be followed for all meals. This is a very elegant serving style that is sometimes used for small gourmet meal functions.
11. The Wave
This is a fast and efficient serving method in which all servers start at one end of the room and head straight to the other end. Servers are not assigned to workstations. Indeed, all servers belong to a single team and the entire conference room is the team’s workstation. Wave is typically used with pre-set and plate service styles. A large number of guests can be served very quickly, using less manpower. It does not provide individualized service to guests.
Serving styles play an important role in the success of a catered event. Customers can choose those that are cheaper (such as predefined) or can splurge with French or Russian services. Additionally, some service styles (such as action stations) are great fun and can contribute significantly to customer satisfaction.