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Buffet vs Plated Wedding Reception Dinner

Guests agree that food and bar selections are some of the most overlooked, yet most important elements of an event so be sure to take care in your selections. Below are factors to consider in deciding between a plated or buffet style dining choice for your wedding.



A plated meal will almost always be more expensive than buffet-style. The food cost is usually higher, and more time and staffing is required. This causes additional markups and fees to cover the caterer’s increased expenses. A buffet is much simpler to prepare and requires fewer, if any, servers and much less cook staff. Therefore, buffet style will usually be a cheaper option.


When deciding between the two options, also think about what your expectations are for the cuisine. Are you wanting to really impress your guests with something unique and intricate or are you content with something more casual that will appeal to the masses? Although the plated option is a bit pricier, you tend to get a more decadent and diverse meal selection. Chefs are a bit more limited in menu creation for buffet style events because the food has to be in large quantity, often times deconstructed, allow for guests to easily plate themselves, and able to sit out for a while. There’s a reason most buffets are pasta, tacos, barbecue, etc. Chefs can make for more elegant and unique dishes with a plated dining option.


When trying to figure out which dining option is best, consider your venue. If you already have a venue picked out, you need to know if they have a full service kitchen and/or service area available for the caterer to use. If your venue is a restaurant or even hotel/resort, you have nothing to worry about. But if it’s a general event venue location, be sure to ask. A lot of wedding/event venues don’t have kitchens which means you likely won’t be able to go the plated route unless the caterer has portable kitchen equipment. Most caterers need an on-site kitchen to bust out plated dishes. Some, however, do have mobile cook stations which is great. If you haven’t picked your venue yet and decide on the plated dining option, just know you need to choose an appropriate venue that will work for your caterer.


Think about who your audience is. Are they a rowdy group of friends that would be difficult to pull away from the dance floor or bar to be seated for dinner? A buffet option may be better. Or are they people who really appreciate food and spend most nights trying different restaurants? Are they people who really care about image and presentation? A plated option may definitely be the better route. The chef will be able to create an elegant, tasty, and visually pleasing menu selection to wow your guests. Also, consider if there are guests with dietary restrictions. With the plated option, the staff is able to somewhat easily set aside, for example, 2 vegan dishes and 3 gluten free dishes for those guests if you are able to provide them with a seat or table number. On the contrary, let’s say you are wanting buffet style for 100 people and 5 people are vegetarian and 10 are gluten free. The caterer can’t just put out a separate chafing dish with only enough food for 5 vegetarians and 10 gluten free people because a buffet is pretty much a free for all. More people than you expected are going to go for those meals and you may run out of those meals and risk the people they were meant for not even getting their share. So caterers will often prepare much more than you think you need and this may cause additional charge for added on dishes.


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