Whether it be for a wedding, anniversary, or any other kind of family or business celebration, the sit down plated-service meal feels very “yesterday.” Among the more popular options to take its place is the serve-yourself food station, or as some call it, the “food bar.” The good news is, even fine wedding catering companies can accommodate this modern option.
This isn’t necessarily an option driven by budgetary considerations; for several reasons, the pricing of sit-downs vs. serve-yourself dinners can be the same. The advantages of food bar setups have to do with changing tastes (and dietary restrictions), as well as a desire to allow guests to be active participants in your party.
What are those changing tastes? Perhaps the biggest is a relaxation of formality, as everything from what the bride wears to times of day (think brunch receptions) to venues (e.g., industrial loft conversions vs. hotel ballrooms) say this generation of couples wants something simpler, different, and fun.
Fun includes getting up from one’s table and mingling about, which is among the pluses of food bar service. Even if there are table assignments, it takes the pressure off the bridal couple to consider who can get along with whom for the entire reception.
Another changing taste is diet restrictions and preferences: gluten-free, vegetarian, pescetarian, pollotarian, paleo, carnivorous, nut allergies … with a serve-yourself station the individual has a wide range of choices to get what they want and avoid what they don’t. The person with a big appetite can go back for more while the person with a small appetite isn’t shamed for a half-eaten entrée that is returned to the kitchen.
The food bar differs from a buffet line in that there’s less lag time for each table to be called up. An even distribution of the smaller serve-yourself stations throughout the venue enables faster service overall. The wedding caterer might also provide a cook-to-order format, allowing guests to choose how well done they would like the dish of choice.
What does a serve-yourself food station look like? For just about any type of cuisine, there is a food bar. It might be a cheese and charcuterie station, a little hamburgers station, gourmet bacon bars, seafood station, vegetarian samplers and salads, oysters on the shell, or even gourmet popcorn and dessert bars.
Some affairs might have elderly guests or people with special needs. This should be accommodated for, either by providing wait staff for just those individuals, or assign a friend or family member to help each individual pick and carry their plates to their table.
What matters most is will your guests enjoy this set up? Most do, particularly younger people who are changing the way we do so many things. Vive la difference!