Plated vs buffet dinner

lovekcdillas

What's your preference and why? There is no difference in price from our caterer. I can see the benefits of both, but I personally prefer buffet (because you can get the things you want without having to decide two months in advance and get as little or as much food as you want), while my fiance is leaning towards plated (because he thinks the appearance of it is better and people don't have to wait in line).

SaveComment7Like
Comments (7)
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
gellchom

Search through the old strings on this subject; you'll see a lot of advice and opinions.

Your guests don't have to decide anything two months in advance if you don't offer choices. You aren't required to; after all, it's just a dinner party writ large, and you wouldn't offer dinner party guests a choice of entree on the invitation.

I like both buffet and plated, and I've used both. Which is preferable depends on a lot of things, including but not limited to:

- number of guests

- size, geography, and "traffic lanes" of room (think this through carefully to avoid traffic jams and collisions of guests and servers for buffet service; don't laugh, I've seen this be a mess)

- formality of event (plated usually seems more formal)

- type of food (avoid sloppy for buffet)

Some people love buffets because they want to be able to choose exactly what will be on their plates; you can also (sometimes) go back for seconds. Others hate them because they hate standing in line and carrying their plates and glasses around, especially if they are wearing high heels and evening clothes they might or others might spill on.

Buffet breaks up the conversation at the tables, too. That's less of an issue if it's an event where most of the people are likely to know the people they are standing in line with, like a party, as opposed to a charity or business event.

Very important: almost everybody hates waiting in a very long line, and it will mess up the pacing of the evening if lots of people have long finished eating before others have even been served, and you have to wait ages to start the dancing. So I would only ever do buffet if you can have a very good guest (and server)-to-buffet table ratio: i.e., few guests or lots of buffet tables (not stations each serving different things, I mean several lines of the same buffet spread; if you are doing stations, then the same applies -- have more than one of each station). Make sure no one will have to wait in line longer than a minute or two and that dishes will be replenished before completely empty. I have seen otherwise lovely events completely ruined where the venue and/or hosts screwed this up.

In general, and I stress it's just a generalization, I'd say the smaller and less formal the event, and the fewer the items offered, the better buffet seems to work. It can work for a huge, formal event, but as I wrote above, there is an awful lot to do to make it work.

Have you considered "family style"? It is becoming more popular, even for very formal events. That's where the food (especially the main course) is served on platters to the table from which the guests serve themselves. The guests can pass the platters, or if you want to be Downton Abbey level formal, have butler-style service where the servers offer each dish to each guest (I haven't seen that). Our daughter had family style at her wedding, which was black tie, and it worked very well (and you can keep the leftovers, too!). Come to think of it, it was a real combination of types of service: during the cocktail hour, the appetizers were passed by servers and I think there were some on a table, too: the first course was served plated; the main course was family style; and dessert was sort of buffet: small pick-up style treats (cake pops, etc.) on a table near the dance floor (she wanted something people could eat while dancing).

1 Like Save     Thanked by lovekcdillas
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
lovekcdillas

Thanks for the input! Our guest list is ~150, but the caterer said with 4 tables, the line moves pretty quickly (could get everyone through in 15 minutes). FFIL thinks buffet is too informal, but our wedding is outdoors at a ranch, and both FH and I are very causal in style, though he also thinks plated would be better.

I didn't think of family style, that's a good idea! I'll have to see if our caterer has an option like that; seems like the best of both worlds.

Save    
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
sheilajoyce_gw

We were advised that with a buffet, you need more food as people take more foods and various foods in case they don't like some of the choices. Lots of waste.

Save     Thanked by lovekcdillas
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
gellchom

Well, there doesn't have to be any waste on a buffet if you make sure they pack up the leftovers for you to take home or give away to a shelter. Don't be shy for asking for leftovers from any kind of service. You paid for that food and you are entitled to take it, donate it, give it to the staff, or whatever you want.

Save    
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
sheilajoyce_gw

No, I mean that the waste is from the heaping plates of food that the guests do not eat because their eyes were bigger than their stomachs.

Save    
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
gellchom

Oh, I see. Good point. Arguably, buffet also cuts waste in the other direction -- in the case of guests who know they don't want something at all, or only a smaller portion than would be provided with plated service. I have no idea which way wastes more; caterers probably do. Yours seemed to think so. Maybe family style is the best for avoiding waste; I would think people would be less inclined to take a supersize portion from a platter meant just for their tablemates.

I thought about it and remembered -- I think; we're talking about 1982 here! -- that the main course at our wedding was served by waiters from platters. So I guess each guest could say how much if any they wanted of each item. It's just modified family style, I guess.

Save    
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
fuzzy wuzzy

Plated, definitely. It's a special meal, not grabbing grub at the cafeteria.

1 Like Save    
Browse Gardening and Landscaping Stories on Houzz See all Stories
Product Picks Guest Picks: Fanciful Chinoiserie for Your Outdoor Dinner Party
Give your everyday patio table a faraway feel with dragonfly napkin rings, pagoda-patterned plates and other chinoiserie touches
Full Story
Shop Houzz Houzz Products: It’s Prime Time for TV Dinners
By Houzz
Welcome the new television season with a chic viewing and dinner party for yourself or a few friends
See Products
Product Picks Guest Picks: Bite-Size Plates for Noshing
Smaller tastes can be so satisfying after a season of holiday feasts — and these mini dishes will sate your appetite for less
Full Story
Inspiration for some backyard chats
Inspiration for a warm welcome
Inspiration for dinner time under the stars
Inspiration for a little quality time
Inspiration for making that best pizza ever
Step into a Ferguson Showroom and you'll be surrounded by the latest styles in kitchen, bath and lighting design... Read More