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Catering Service Styles 101

When you think of a catered event, do you think of a group of people rushing to a buffet table with tin foil pans of lukewarm food? Not anymore, because there are a number of great catering service styles to choose from. Many of our clients incorporate more than one style for their event.

Find out which catering service styles are best for you event.

Butler Passing
A classy name for a classy service style. Butler passing refers to wait staff carrying around trays of food items and/or beverages directly to guests. Passing a specialty cocktail or sparkling wine works great as well and provides a touch of class to any event.

Butler passing adds a special touch of elegance as a pre-function touch. Having your guests met upon arrival and served hors d’oeuvres by waiters is always a great start to a special event. It will keep people from rushing to the main event.

Even though this is considered an upgraded service style, Royal Catering does not charge extra for this service because often the staff that is working the main event can butler pass items prior to the main event.

  BBQ  Beef Brisket Slider Station

Stations are a fantastic set up to make your event interesting and encourage guest interaction. With a variety of stations, attendees can move around the event, looking forward to what's next. Consider an "around the world" station set up with food items influenced by different regions.  

Action Stations
Take it up a notch with "dinner and a show". An action station is a station set up where items are prepared to order. Action stations not only provide a fresh and customizable product for your guests but are also engaging entertainment. Many items can be partially prepared requiring a quick prep finish to avoid waiting times.

Chocolate Fondue Dipping Station   Carving Station

Self-Serve Buffets
With this set up food items are lined up on a linear table set where guests proceed through and take what they want. A possible down-side of this service style is the potential of running out of some food items before everyone getting through the service line.

Portion-Controlled Buffets
Food items are lined up and some or all buffet items are served by attendants while guests proceed through. This type of service is effective to control food portions and ensure that everyone gets served before any items potentially run out. Make sure to open up the buffet after everyone has been served for anyone who would like to return for more.

This is a high level of service where each guest is served their meal individually. This style of service is labor intensive; it requires a waiter for every three tables on average as well as additional staffing to pre-set tables, to plate up the food and to clean up. Ensuring that all guests are served before the food gets cold can be challenging, especially for larger groups. Plated events are typically done with china plates, stainless flatware, glassware, and linen napkins.

Plated Dinner   Plated Dinner

Family Style
While similar to a plated sit-down dinner, family style events are less formal and are great for fostering guest interaction. Guests are seated at banquet tables and food is served by the wait staff. Instead of individual plates, the food comes on large platters and is placed in the middle of the table. Guests help themselves and decide which items they want and how much. Instead of traditional banquet round tables, use rectangular tables with unique (rustic) table covers and décor.

Points of Consideration for Each Service Style

  • What’s the mood that you would like to set for the event (formal, relaxed, interactive)?
  • How long will the event last?
  • Are you providing a full meal or merely hors d’ oeuvres?
  • What’s your budget (plated events and action stations are more labor intensive and hence more costly)?

When to Incorporate Particular Service Styles Into Your Event

  • Are your guests arriving prior to the main event (as when waiting for the wedding party to arrive before dinner)?
    Butler Passing is perfect!
  • How about having company leaders serving employees?
    Choose a portion-controlled buffet.
  • Do you want to have a leisurely event with no rush schedule and guest interaction?
    Action stations are a perfect choice for this kind of event.
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