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CULINARY SERVICEBS dishes, which unlit are not ideal for keep-
ing food at appropriate temperatures. There are several different types of reception services to choose from. You can improve your planning experience if you have a basic understanding of them before you begin. To help you along, here
are some descriptions of various options:
Plated. Also called “seated and served,” this type of reception service is a great option for a formal affair. Food is placed on each plate and served to each guest at the table. Plated service is more popular in hotels than in private facilities, because it requires almost twice as many service- staff people as a buffet does. Hotels are able to float a single staff between concur- rent events; at a private facility, this tech- nique is not viable. Therefore, the price per person on a sit-down service is higher, making it the most expensive option.
French. This type of reception service is similar to plated service, except that the food is divided into several serving plat- ters. The platters are then brought to the tables, where the guests are served the foods and portions of their choosing. It’s a little like bringing a buffet to the diner. Very elegant, and often-times food stays warmer. However, not all caterers are equipped with the quantity of serving pieces required for French service with a large group.
Buffet. This is the most popular type of reception service. The menu can include many different entrees and side dishes, and guests can eat as much as they like. With buffets, portion sizes aren’t set in stone. So, your eight-year-old cousin won’t get a plate with the same amount of food as your Texas-sized uncle. Buffet service can often be faster than French-
style service, especially if the caterer is conscientious about the configuration of the tables. For example, a serpentine or “T” configuration can make it possible for lots of people to dish up simultaneously.
Food Stations. This type of reception service creates a more social atmosphere than the buffet or plated service. Guests mingle and eat, mingle and eat. Many caterers agree food stations are simply more fun than any of the other types of service. That’s partly because there are usually “action foods” at the sta- tions, where the cooking is done before your guests’ eyes. These action stations create conversation along with a great mix of aromas.
Cocktail. Turning the idea of food sta- tions and buffets on their head, cocktail service brings the food to the mingling guests (as opposed to luring the minglers to the food). Waiters circulate through the crowd with trays of hors d’oeuvres and drinks. Generally, that means no meal. This type of reception service is good in situations where guests might be more tentative about walking up to food sta- tions. It’s also ideal where space is limited.
Reception Odds and Ends
Some caterers will allow you to pur- chase your alcohol from an outside source (which can be cheaper) and then have it corked and served by their staff at your reception.
Ask about your leftovers. Some caterers will take your uneaten victuals to a local food bank or, if you prefer, will package them for you or your family to take home.
Don’t forget your vegetarian friends. Most caterers will prepare a specified number of vegetarian plates – even if it’s only one – at your request. If you haven’t already sent your invitations, you may want to provide a “vegetarian meal” option on your RSVP cards. §

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