I get asked all the time whether an organizer should order buffet or plated options for their meals. My answer is almost always, “it depends”. There are, of course situations where the answer is pretty straightforward and one is highly recommended over another. If you have invited people for a speaker and for lunch and you only a very specific amount of time and the speaker needs most or all of it, you’ll need to do plated as no one will have time to go up to a buffet. If you have a group in a meeting room all day and you only have a few minutes for them to grab lunch, you’ll want to buffet as there won’t be time to set the tables or serve several courses to the attendees.
Below are some points to keep in mind when deciding which option to go for…
- Plated meals are generally less expensive than buffet as there is portion control (assuming you are offering the same types of foods) and few options. This means less labour.
- For some, buffets give a feeling of “value” as they and their attendees can dish out as much food as they would like and can go up to the buffet for seconds. They also feel like the buffet has more of a “WOW” factor with everything on display.
- Buffets work really well for groups with varying tastes and/or dietary restrictions. It takes the guess work out of picking one menu for everyone and reduces the need to make arrangements for allergies and restrictions. You will still need to make arrangements for severe allergies as those are actually more of a problem on a buffet but will deal with all your picky eaters.
- In my opinion, plated meals are more elegant and “classy”. Servers bring the food to you which you can socialize with your table-mates. The meal is displayed on your plate like a work of art and items are paired together for flavors etc…
- Buffet meals take up more space – not only do you need space for the buffet itself but you need room for all the traffic to and from. If you are maxing out your space, plated may be a better option.
- It is easier to organize wine pairings with a plated meal as you know what people are having. With a buffet, you have pick wines that are a bit more “general” in nature.
- You can get the culinary team more involved on a buffet with carving and action stations. Depending on your group, this may be a real perk for attendees wanting to interact with the people who make their food.