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Serving Styles Guide– Buffet, Seated or Passed-Tray

When planning the menu for your party or event, you will need to decide how the food will be served. The most common options are Plated, Family Style, Seated or Standing Buffet and Passed Tray Appetizer Reception. You will need to take a few points into consideration to decide the best serving style experience for you and the guests.

The time of day your event will take place and length of time for your party will influence the way your food should be served.  For example, a 5 course dinner would be best served plated and with guests seated at a fully set table.

The formality of your event will also dictate how the food should be served.  If you are planning a cocktail party, it is not necessary for a sit down affair.

Knowing your guests and your preference in entertaining style will influence the best serving style.  If you have a elderly guests or a very large guest list a buffet style arrangement may not be ideal as standing in long lines would not be as comfortable to senior guests.

Here are 4 common serving styles and tips:

Plated – Food is arranged on a plate by the kitchen staff and served to the guest.

Type of event – Good for an elegant event and when your table is not large enough for your serving dishes.

Second helpings – The host or kitchen staff refills or passes serving platters and then returns them to the kitchen.

Tips – Have bread, condiments and beverages on the guest tables so that they can serve themselves.

Family-style –  Ideal for a casual gathering that is not too large. Food is arranged on large serving dishes that are placed on the table where guests pass them around and serve themselves.

Second helpings-  Food is passes around when requested.

Tips - Have an appetizer plate set and ready for the guests to give you extra time in the kitchen to plate the large serving dishes.

Seated Buffet – For larger formal events with a big guest list. The guests serve themselves and sit down to eat at a completely set table. Standing Buffet – a variation on the seated buffet except that the guests also pick up eating utensils and napkins and then stand or sit wherever they want. The standing buffet is for large but less formal events.

Second helpings – Guests get up and go to the buffet to help themselves.

Tips – Have the buffet table situated so that guests can come down either side of the table to help themselves.  This will help cut down the wait time.  Also, stack dishes on either side of the table.

Passed Tray – This serving style is for cocktail parties or formal events before proceeding to a seated meal. It is a nice and elegant touch to a party.

Second helpings – Guests wait for servers to come back with another tray of appetizers.

Tips - Assign one server to an appetizer tray so guests can spot the server or favorite appetizer as it makes additional rounds.

Learn how to set a table



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