A Quick Guide to Choosing the Best Catering Style for Your Event
We can all agree that no event longer than an hour should go without some sort of snack. To leave out such a fundamental part of the human experience… shame! But after settling on the idea of including food to your event, you need to decide on your approach to catering.
Catering typically takes up 30-35% of the total budget. You’ll want to ensure that you’re using every bit of that budget correctly—you’d be surprised how quickly it goes! If you’re just getting started in event planning, you probably lack the extensive event coordinator training to know exactly the type of catering you need for every occasion. Don’t worry! We’re going to break it all down for you.
Keep reading to find out how to choose the best type of catering for your next event!
Buffet Catering Service
Buffet catering service is where all the food is located in one area of the venue. Tables of guests take turns walking along the buffet line and serve themselves. Although, additional wait staff may be hired to serve in line at the buffet. Depending on the number of attendees, there may be more than one buffet station located apart from one another in the venue.
- Fewer wait staff
- Variety of food
- Offers choice to guests with dietary restrictions
- Less serving time
- Guests can return for seconds
- Guests determine portion control per serving
- More expensive than plated meals as you must order more food
- More casual than what formal events require
- Buffet stations require additional floor space to host the station and queue
- Certain foods need specific temperatures to remain fresh and safe to eat
Plated Catering Service
As the second of the main service styles, plated catering is more formal and classy compared to the buffet. Events that are most suitable for this style are generally semi-formal to formal. Attendees decide on their meal choices ahead of time—an appetizer, an entrée, and a dessert. Meals are similar to those you’d find at a mid-to-upscale restaurant, and everyone is served at the same time.
- No lines
- Sophisticated meals that aren’t bite-sized portions
- Meal pre-selection means caterers know exactly how much food to make
- Less mingling time available for guests
- Must hire more wait staff
- Time-consuming as meals are served in courses
- Portions are controlled in the kitchen
- Fewer meal options
Family-Style Catering Service
Family-style catering is a compromise between the buffet and plated catering styles! Instead of having complete meals on individual plates, each plate is loaded with just one dish. Waiters bring out large plates of food from the kitchen to the center of each table. Guests around the table can then help themselves.
- A large variety of different foods at a single table
- No lineup
- Wait staff needed to serve plates to the tables
- Can turn chaotic
- Tables cannot have too many guests so that each table can hold enough food for all guests
Food Truck Catering Service
Food truck catering is best suited for casual events. One or more food trucks are parked at the venue. Event guests then elect when they would like to eat and line up to get their chance to order. Food is made-to-order. Guests then find a seat in communal dining areas.
- Social atmosphere
- Made-to-order food is fresh
- Smaller portions so guests can eat at multiple themed trucks
- One of the most affordable options—no need for wait staff
- Restricted menu options
- Ensure trucks have their own insurance and check with lot permits
Cocktail Reception Catering Service
Finger foods and small, snack-sized meals are served buffet-style on a table. Guests are invited to socialize as they serve themselves from the table. Hors d’oeuvres are attractive but aren’t designed to completely fill stomachs.
- Perfect for events of less than 2 hours that don’t require full-service meals
- Bite-sized food variety can range from casual to formal
- Suitable foods can be found for all event themes
- Amount of food prepared is pre-determined
- Portions are less than that of dinner service
Butlered Hors D’oeuvres Service
A formal way of serving food. The food options are often bite-sized canapes, similar to what you would find at a cocktail reception. The difference lies in the service style. Servers walk around the mingling guests with trays of food. Guests then choose the finger foods they want from the trays and serve themselves.
- Control the amount of food in circulation at a time
- Control when guests have access to food
- Guests have the opportunity to mingle around the venue
- Guests have to wait for the servers to come by
- Portions and amount of food is less than that of dinner service
Remember that no matter the budget, you should always consider the number of guests attending the event. Knowing these two factors will help you narrow down the type of catering services dramatically. Other factors include the type of event, level of formality, and venue restrictions. Always communicate openly with your client and you’ll be able to find a solution that everyone is happy with!
Did we miss any other catering services styles? Let us know!