Seated Meals Vs. Buffet

Ah, the age old catering question.

I hear it A LOT and it never really gets answered. Both really have their ups and downs. Personally, I favor the buffet because I just have to garnish a tray or pan ( I personally hate garnishing things, waste of time and distracts from the food, so when I do garnish I KEEP IT SIMPLE!) in stead every single plate. Then there’s consistency to worry about. It’s far easier to make 6 fruit trays look alike by yourself than having 4 other guys always assemble the plate the same. Doesn’t matter if they have cream of the crop training or they’re a server pulled off the floor in a last ditch emergency. People eye ball things differently, have different hand sizes and strengths. Not to mention all no fabricated foods are always different in shape, size, and density. An absolute nightmare for the perfectionist that wants cookie cutter food!

On the other hand, financially, the seated meal has many boons the buffet can’t match. For instance, a good caterer will always have a definitive count before the event even takes place, some times days in advance. This cuts down on waste, loss, and unnecessary prep time. (And for those fools like myself that took Salary this can be a deal maker or breaker.) Not to mention when you’re done with the last plate that’s it! You can start cleaning up and get the hell outta there!

But then I waffle back again, with a buffet you get one gigantic pow of color, texture, and flavor. People can pick and choose what they want with out anything being sent back or changing their mind on the entree. A buffet also requires less servers to run (generally) and has far fewer demands of the chef once on-site.

But the seated meal counters with one thing done very will. Where everything on the plate compliments the next so you don’t get any funky tastes. (You know, like toothpaste and orange juice?) And unlike a buffet where you know people will clean you out of house and home with the crab legs in browned butter whilst leaving the veggie platter full and unscathed, a seated meal makes for even portioning on starch, veg, and entree.

So yeah, it boils down to garnish for me.

I mention all this because we had two last weekend, and they went remarkably well! Granted, they were for less than a hundred each and only had four different entrees between the two. (3 at mine, 1 at Nick’s) But I still felt at the end of the day like I’d been drug across the coals, if you know what I mean. I don’t know if it’s the timed pressure that’s so very restaurant-esque of the seated meal that drains my soul, or maybe it’s the ever prevalent fear that 10 more people will show up and I won’t have anything for the staff and myself to nosh on before the day rolls over into tomorrow?

But I know this much, seated meals are by far no walk in the park and a little bit of me always groans inside when ever I see them come up on the billing sheets. Ah well, it’s a living. I got out of restaurants, returning to my catering roots because of the ease of work and the timing but it’s nice to see how the other side lives every once in a while.

So long as I don’t have to do it all day, every day. Kitchen’s closed kiddies!

-KM CD

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