Buffet Menu Design & Logistics
Todays blog is the third installation building on the previously discussed recipe development and menu design process. Many of the concepts discussed previously are also applied to buffets. First of we should think of buffets as a style of service not unlike French, Russian, American, Gueridon, etc.
A buffet menu is used to list all the food items that are included in a buffet selection present during an event. It is usually used during wedding, birthdays, conventions, and other functions where food service is expected. Other than that, it is also a usual document used by hotels and restaurants who offer buffet menu selections to their guests and customers.
A little history.
In the 19th century, supper, a lighter meal some hours after the main dinner, was sometimes served as a buffet (and so called), especially late at night at grand balls, where not everyone present would want to eat, or at the same time, or in the same quantity. Even in a very large building, at a large ball there might not be enough space to seat all guests at the same time, or servants to serve them in the manner required by the prevailing customs. A large cooked English breakfast with various choices was also very often routinely served this way, for similar reasons. Even when many servants were on hand, there might be an element of self-service. The term buffet originally referred to the French sideboard furniture where the food was placed, but eventually became applied to the serving format.
At balls, the “buffet” was also where drinks were obtained, either by circulating footmen supplying orders from guests, but often by the male guests. During the Victorian period, it became usual for guests to have to eat standing up. In fact John Conrade Cooke’s cookbook Cookery and Confectionery, (London: 1824) says it was already “the present fashion”. In a report on a ball in 1904, a departure from “the usual stand-up buffet supper”, with parties being able to reserve tables, was praised.
Scandinavians like to claim that the buffet table originates from the brännvinsbord (Swedish schnapps, or shot of alcoholic beverage) table from the middle of 16th century. This custom had its prime during the early 18th century. The smörgåsbord buffet did not increase in popularity until the expansion of the railroads throughout Europe.
The smörgåsbord table was originally a meal where guests gathered before dinner for a pre-dinner drink, and was not part of the formal dinner that followed. The smörgåsbord buffet was often held in separate rooms for men and women before the dinner was served.
Smörgåsbord became internationally known as “smorgasbord” at the 1939 New York World’s Fair exhibition, as the Swedes had to invent a new way of showcasing the best of Swedish food to large numbers of visitors.
General Guide Lines for Buffets.
It is time to set up your buffet and prepare your guests for the ultimate dining experience! How? Here are a few useful pro tips guaranteed to help you plan a professional buffet set up and impress your guests.
In this era of technology and social media usage that we live in, one source of inspiration for social media posts comes through beautiful plating and buffet presentation. The dining experience you provide will first please the eyes of your invitees and afterwards their appetite.
Here are our thoughts for an unforgettable event:
Mind the Decoration and the Theme of your Buffet
Before you start planning your buffet, choose a theme or the kind of decoration you want to have. For example, do you want your buffet to be modern? Then choose geometrical patterns and vivid colors for the decoration. Do you want your buffet to be traditional? Then choose luxurious bronze and gold tones in combination with baroque patterns like flowers. Add some accent lighting, bows and flower decoration. However, don’t overdo it with the decoration because you want your buffet food arrangement to be the focal point. Arrange everything as one cohesive concept; your food, your decor, your buffet risers, plates and bowls so as to create a memorable experience for your guests.
Carefully Choose your Buffet Risers & Serving Dishes
All the details have to be well thought out and prepared in advance in order to surpass the expectations of your invitees. Consider purchasing quality modern glass dinnerware of different shapes and sizes which will catch everyone’s eye and trigger the desire to share the amazing set up on their social media with their friends. If they are inspired to share your buffet presentation with their friends it is like free advertising and may generate future customers.
Create levels in your presentation! Choose a variety of sizes and heights for your buffet risers arrangements which will break up the space, creating layers and make the presentation more appealing. Regardless of whether you use traditional or unconventional risers pick platters and bowls in different colors and shapes, playful so as to elevate the experience. Show something different to your customers and you can be sure that it will be appreciated.
Prepare your Venue to Welcome your Guests
When choosing the arrangement of your buffet, keep in mind that long table arrangements set one next to the other against the wall will not allow a flawless movement of the guests. You need to have ample empty space for them to move around easily and not stiffly. The more space your customers have, the more they will enjoy the dining event you have organized for them.
Use different tables for glasses, water carafes, cutlery and napkins. Make sure that the utensils are enough for all of your guests and that your waiters keep an eye for any replenishment needs.
People tend to crowd around the beverages so it is a good idea to have the alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages in different areas. Even more important, have the beverages on a different table than the main buffet table.
Don’t create stress for your guests by forcing them to try to figure out how to hold the plate, the silver, and the drinks in one hand while they are trying to move around and get food. The best way, if you have a big enough room, is to separate the drinks from the food and the seating area. So imagine three separate areas in the room for your event. If you have the luxury of budget and space, it will make a significant difference in your guest’s dining experience!
Use Separate Tables for the Food Presentation
Consider having a multi table set up with different cuisines and different food variety. For example, have your salads, breads, appetizers, main dishes and desserts on separate tables, perhaps some 8’ tables, some 6’ tables, and/or some 4’ or perhaps round tables. If you are running a multi themed cuisine event, use different stations for Asian cuisine, Mediterranean cuisine, vegan, vegetarian etc. This will allow your guests to move from one buffet table/station to another without having to wait in one long line to get to their favorite cuisine.
It is important to place the table with the beverages next to the kitchen and the table with the plates before the food. It makes sense if you think about it..the beverages next to the kitchen because the staff should be able to replenish based on the needs an any given time and the plates before the table with the food as the guest should not be wondering “where are the plates”? Also put the cutlery at the end so the guests aren’t afraid that they will drop the cutlery while they try to serve themselves.
Follow the above mentioned professional buffet set up tips and you will have happier guests who have a better, more seamless dining experience rather than the typical crowded buffet with people waiting in a queue to serve themselves, which often results in guests becoming impatient and disappointed.
Remember to place explanatory tags in front of every dish so there is no guesswork in what they are eating and no-one will be mislead while they make their food choices!
Cheers! Remember if you ever need help with any of the details of buffet presentation or to develop a buffet selection menu, contact me at email@example.com or visit my site www.dtpcs.biz