An expatriate of New Orleans – and professional chef – who has lived in Los Angeles since her childhood, blogs about the journey from New Orleans to Los Angeles back to New Orleans, and points along the way.

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Buffet vs. Sit Down Dinner- Which Way to Go if You’re on a Budget?

By on May 23, 2009, 6:49 pm in Food and Drink, Reflections on the Catering Life, Shameless Self Promotion- Sharing Successes, Small Pleasures Catering, Special Events | 0 comments

Every once in a while I browse the Web on the topic of wedding catering to see what people are saying out there. Today I came across a site which reminded me of how many misconceptions there are being tossed around. Here's an old bromide I ran across this morning on a site offering advice on trimming the cost of a wedding reception:

"…consider going with a buffet instead of a traditional sit-down dinner. While every catering price list is different, buffet dinners are traditionally cheaper than plated dinners."

The common wisdom is that buffet events require less service staff- which admittedly can be expensive- so therefore are less expensive. I've always been suspicious of this bit of "common wisdom", so while I was writing Help I Need a Caterer, I decided to run the question by a couple other caterers and event planners.  My suspicions were confirmed, as they agreed with me.  While there is a need for more service staff with a formal sit down dinner, a caterer is able to control food portions in a way that is impossible on a buffet. We've all seen guests whose eyes are bigger than their stomachs, and pile their plates with food that ends up getting tossed. While the quantity of each dish needs to be increased on a buffet, I also feel  the number of selections need to be increased. For example, clients usually want two main course selections, chicken and fish or beef on a buffet, as well as a two or three vegetable selections. As a caterer, I don't know which item will appeal to guests more, so I have to make sure there is enough of each. The fact of the matter is, most people will want to taste both.

But here's the real kicker that a colleague pointed out to me. Since guests will undoubtedly return to the buffet more than once, there's a need to rent additional plates and flatware etc., and rentals really do add up.

When I'm a guest, I personally favor buffets- I'm more of a casual gal, I like choices, and I like to move around. But which is more economical? I think it's a toss up. The important thing is deciding what's  your style, and most important to you.

Tune in over the next few days as I look at more of those "common wisdom" assumptions.

Bon Appetit,


P.S. If you're planning a wedding, but have question about how to go about putting together your reception,watch for the relaunch of my E-book Help! I Need a Caterer. It 's full of practical tips on planning and  hiring a caterer who'll help you create the perfect wedding reception- or any other special party. BTW, the E-book was recently featured in the L.A. Bride section of Valley Magazine. Yeh!

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