Originating in 16th Century France, buffet dining has stood the test of time and continues to be a popular choice for many restaurant customers. A buffet style dinner is ideal for large groups, such as weddings or corporate dinners. Buffets require less staff per person than a plated meal (see below). Almost any cuisine can be adapted for a buffet line. Buffets are also budget friendly, making them very popular choice for catered restaurant events. Read more about restaurant buffets.
A formal cocktail reception takes place between four and seven o’clock. This type of catered event is ideal for formal or informal gatherings. It can work for either a rehearsal dinner or wedding reception. Food, served by staff directly to guests, should be easy for guests who are holding a beverage, to eat in one or two bites. Appetizers can be more expensive than a buffet because items like canapés and hors d’ oeuvres’ are often labor intensive. For example, it takes significantly more time to wrap 500 scallops in bacon than it does to make a large pan of marina sauce and spaghetti.
Also called a seated dinner, guests are served individually at their table. This is the closet to a typical restaurant dining experience. And also the most costly, requiring a lot of staff, both in the dining room and in the kitchen. As a courtesy to guests, hosts often offer a few dinner options, i.e. fish, beef chicken, and the final headcount will indicate how much of each is needed. A plated dinner for a large group, such as a wedding reception, is a carefully orchestrated affair. After all, you are serving hundreds of people at the same time. It should be 1 staff member for every 10-12 guests. The wait staff is not just responsible for dropping food and cleaning up empty plates, but also for refilling water glasses, getting drinks from the bar and attending to any other needs the guests may have.
An elegant, yet wholly simple catered event is a tea. Usually held between two and five o’clock in the afternoon, a tea is ideal for small, more intimate gatherings, such as a bridal shower, birthday or mother’s day. It is also a charming option for a wedding reception. Traditional tea fare includes finder sandwiches and dainty, pretty foods, served buffet style. Along with a variety of teas, caterers can offer punch, champagne or other light alcoholic beverages.
A newer trend in restaurant catering are food stations. Like a buffet, food stations are ideal for larger groups. Unlike a buffet where all the food is one long table, food stations are positioned throughout the dining room or event hall. Each station offers a different food and theme. For example, one station may offer a selection of cured meats and cheeses with artisan breads, while another features a selection of shellfish, artfully displayed on ice. Costs for a catered food station can fall between a traditional buffets and a plated meal. Typically food stations offer more variety of food than other types of restaurant catering, which will also affect the final price.