Buffet catering is perfect for events of all sizes, but especially for large events. They completely eliminate the need for the individual serving of dishes, saving time and the cost of hiring trained waiters for table service. Instead, guests can serve themselves from a range of options and eat their fill.
However, just because buffet catering means less hassles in some areas does not mean it’s necessarily easier to organise. Unexpectedly long lines or popular dishes running out are just some of the hiccups that could occur, meaning organising a successful buffet catering event still requires a lot of planning. To take some of the stress out of your event, here are some of our tips for running your buffet catering event like a pro.
Before the Event
- The key thing to organise for a buffet is of course, the food! There’s a fine line between ensuring there is plenty of food for everyone, but not so much that leftovers need to be thrown out or your budget is maxed out.
- A basic guideline to refer to when planning each course is to offer 2-3 entrée choices, three salad dressing options, two dessert options (one healthy, one indulgent). Provide three main meal options that cover different spice levels and with different proteins as the star of the dish. If your event doesn’t include a dinner, plan for 10-15 entrees per person instead.
- Go for complementary dishes (a themed ethnic menu might help with this) so that people don’t end up with drastically contrasting dishes on their plates. Also consider prioritising low maintenance foods like grilled vegetables, pastas and salads that don’t need to be kept warm.
- Also, factor in any special dietary requirements, like kosher, halal, vegetarian/vegan, gluten intolerance or various allergies. Getting guests to state their special dietary requirements when they RSVP is the best way of planning this ahead of time.
If you’re worried about wastage, provide slightly smaller dinner plates to your guests. This encourages portion control and limits wastage, while guests can always go back for seconds if they need to.
Once you’ve thought about your menu, hire a renowned buffet catering company to assist you with the planning and to handle the setup, cooking, service and clean up.
On the Day
- Now that the preliminary planning has been taken care of, you’ll need to ensure the actual event goes ahead smoothly too.
- Have silverware and napkins already laid out on the tables instead of at the buffet line, so that guests don’t have to juggle multiple items when trying to serve out food for themselves.
- One way to prevent a backlog of hungry guests is to have a buffet line for every 100 guests. This means that a two-sided table will suffice for 200 guests, allowing guests to flow down the buffet line. Direct foot traffic in two separate directions with the layout of the food, allowing a more seamless flow of guests.
- Place your most expensive food items at the end of the line – that way, guests will have filled up on the affordable items and will only take a few of the expensive items.
- Arrange desserts and drinks separately to the rest of the food. This will prevent too many guests from congregating in one place, and ensure that your guests aren’t trying to balance a little bit of everything. This also means that a guest simply wanting to refill their drink doesn’t have to muscle through those lining up for food. Provide jugs of water on tables, so that guests don’t have to navigate the whole room every time they want a glass of water.
- So that service doesn’t drag on forever, decide on a cut off time for the buffet service and let your guests know of this in advance. This will make packing up far easier, and reduce the burden on your catering staff.
If you are focused on freshness and reducing costs, consider display cooking for dishes that can be prepared quickly. This ensures that only the amount that is needed is made, and that guests can enjoy fresh dishes. Also, guests will love seeing the food made right before their eyes.
Some catering companies may be able to provide a few wait staff members, which provides an extra touch of service as well as helps with controlling portion sizes and minimising waste.