Feast your eyes on the newest trend in party food. You’ll never think of the word “buffet” in the same way again.
If serving your guests a buffet seems unappetizing and a sit-down meal seems too expensive, then isn’t it time to find a stylish, sophisticated alternative to the tried-and-true ways to feed your guests?
Welcome to the hottest trend in catering: food stations. Mixing the best parts of buffets and the most elegant aspects of a sit-down dinner, guests will love this alternative. Food stations have all the variety of flavors a buffet offers, but without that sloppy cafeteria feel. Plus, you get the chic presentation of plated dishes and the finer attention to ingredients that makes a sit-down stand apart.
Read on for five reasons you may want your caterer to set up stations at your wedding.
1. IT WOWS GUESTS
Let’s get this out of the way first. When done right, food stations creatively showcase dishes in imaginative ways that awe guests. Caterer Mary Giuliani, for example, presents some of her favorite dishes in a rotating Ferris wheel. The key to this arrangement, says Giuliani, is “offering small plates.”
Unlike the standard buffet platter (that can be grotesquely larger than the normal dinner plate), food station fare, often self-serve, is presented on tiny, appetizer size china so guests are urged to take just “bites” of various foods and then return to socializing. Stations are often organized, too, by food themes, from various sampler dishes of Asian or Mexican cuisine to a raw seafood bar.
2. IT GIVES GUESTS PLENTY OF OPTIONS
The old adage you can’t please all of the people all of the time certainly applies when you’re trying to host a uniform dinner for 200. When you’re arranging a sit-down affair, which realistically offers two to three dinner options tops, imagine how hard it will be to provide a tasty meal that is also vegetarian for Cousin Sue, has a steak option for Uncle Bill, is lactose-free for your BFF Elaine, is gluten-free for your Nephew Ned and free of garlic since your mom is allergic. You get the idea. With food stations, you’re able to pleasingly lay out various small bites to satisfy everyone’s palate.
3. IT’S MORE AFFORDABLE
Believe it or not, fancy-looking food stations may just be the most economical option because the dishes use less food than a buffet and are self-serve so fewer waiters are needed than sit-down–the two details that rack up the cost of the other two most popular catering options.
4. IT KEEPS THE PARTY MOVING
One of the main problems with the refined, organized manner of a sit-down is just that—people need to sit through an entire dinner in the same seat. There are tricks to get people to mingle (you can urge guests to get up to the dance floor between courses or place the bar far from the tables).
Still, nothing entices guests to move like food stations. For one, they are a source of conversation when decorated innovatively. Second, the bites are often small enough that people have to walk around to nosh—and circulate to socialize.
5. IT WON’T CREATE TACKY FOOD LINES
The long queue at a wedding buffet is notorious. Hosts can try to diminish the wait by having one table at a time go up to eat, but it still doesn’t eliminate the line. With food stations, because the food is elegantly arranged all around the tables and is already beautifully plated, there are no food lines. And isn’t there something so wrong about people who are dressed so right spooning out Chicken Florentine from a chafing dish, no matter how delicious the food is?