It seems as though I ‘m in constant indifference with many of the main stream wedding planning publications on the net these days and I wish this time I could jump back to the order of things. To do so would negate 30 years of catering and menu planning from New York to California and back down to Orlando. I had at least hoped that I would not have to outright dispute the norm completely instead maybe I could just run alongside of it distancing myself on a few points or issues but nope, not a chance.
To make sure the world didn’t change overnight I Googled “planning your wedding menu” just few minutes ago and the very first listing was Real Simple.com. This is a good example because they are a great site, one that has all the answers and they don’t claim to know all, they claim to have researched all and they follow main stream logic on every issue.
The article I am referring to is ” How to Plan Your Wedding Reception Menu” it starts with a common description of a seated menu option then buffets, cocktails and barbeques and the problem is, I can’t find a single issue that really applies to our world when advising brides or at least not an important one.
There are a multitude of pros and cons to a seated meal and if you are giving food service advise and don’t want to list them all at least list one or two that are important. Why continue to pollute the minds of brides everywhere just to make a cute point, then leave them to real wedding professionals who’s first job is now to perform and exorcism of bad advice and guide them back into the light.
Below is a direct quote from the article:
Who should choose it: Couples celebrating at a catering facility, club, or ballroom, as well as oenophiles who want to pair each course with wine.
What does celebrating your wedding at a catering facility, club or ballroom have to do with a seated meal? Give any good caterer a plan, a spot to work out of and place to feed your guests we could serve seated meals anywhere you ask, exactly as you ask.
Now maybe just maybe there’s some credibility to the wine service issue however, give our friends out at Lake Ridge Winery & Vineyards call and ask them for advice and they will give you a hundred wonderful, proper methods to serve multiple selections of wine in just about any situation.
Here’s a point, you don’t choose the meal service style to go with your wine service style you choose the wine service style to go with the meal service style.
There comment’s are:
Who should avoid it: Party animals. Dinners take time―spent eating, not dancing or clinking glasses with anyone beyond your table.
Huh? Seated meals can be the single most effect time management tool we have. You tell us the meal needs to be placed at a specific time and picked up at a specific time and that will happen. If there are some slow eaters then we simply leave them alone and get back to them when they are done but the wedding plan moves on with 99% of your guests.
What to ask: The real price difference between seated dinners and buffets. You may assume plated dinners are pricier, but often they are not, because the caterer knows exactly how much food to order and prepare, whereas buffets have to accommodate multiple trippers.
This one kills me and this is something that someone has needed to say for years and that is food is 22% to 35% or your budget. The other nearly 70% to 80% of your budget pays for the catering machine that has been working for you days before wedding day pulling and packing a restaurant so to speak that we then transport, unpack, set up, execute , repack, transport back, wash and then put it back away which could go on long after you left for your honeymoon.
Caterers are the gypsies of the food business were on the move at all times and on any given busy weekend we could have 50 to 100 or more staff on hand from Chefs, preps, managers, servers and bartenders on jobs and in trucks winding thru every neighborhood in town full of equipment, linens, and themes. We bring the restaurant to you and that is where the bulk of your money is being spent.
As for the better food control or “double dipper” comment, the number of guests expected at a wedding can be a fickle number and we must always be ready for the unexpected. If you figured 110 on a seated meal and 120 showed what do we do tell the other 10 sorry your host didn’t account for you so there is no food left, no way!
And yes, there are always a couple of guest who ask for seconds in a seated meal setting and we are happy to oblige along with feeding DJ’s, Photographers , Venue Staff and anyone else remotely involved.
Now here is the important part. The reason that food cost is often a negotiating point is because more often than not that is all we have to negotiate with. The catering machine for the most part is necessary on all accounts, you need us to have facilities to cook and prepare for your event as well as staff, linens and equipment and that’s why there is so little room to negotiate price when most of the time the only thing that can be negotiated is food.
Now it is easy to knock someone’s logic and not replace it with your own so now after I have disputed every word they said I am sure you are thinking well then, when it is best to choose a seated meal and my answer is simple, you tell me.
My point is this is your wedding and just like every other decision you made from colors, flowers, your dress when selecting your menu and service style you need to ask yourself the same questions. How do you envision diner service? Do you want the formality of a seated meal or not? What type of atmosphere or theme are you shooting for? Will it stifle the celebration part of your wedding? Are your family and guest the type that if you let them sit and serve them you may never get them up and moving again? Every DJ’s has a horror story about what they went through to get a group dancing and socializing after a seated meal. At the same time there are groups where we feel like we need to follow them around to feed them because they are on the move, switching seats and just itching to get the party started.
These are the types of issues that you should be considering and discussing and I could go on and on discussing the pros and cons after hearing your thoughts but food portions and wine service are certainly not one of them.
Also, when you say seated how far are we taking it? Is that with complete tables sides beverage? Is the coffee also table side or did we dress it up in a gourmet coffee station and let them start moving around serve themselves.
Seated service is a discussion of style and just like every other decision you made for your wedding you were advised of your options based on the style you have in mind for the day and for seated service to be used as anything different is just making excuses.
Well ok, I will let it go there for now but my next post we will dig into the “When is buffet service best” and again I wish I could agree with what is floating around on the net but like I said before nope, not a chance.
Until Next Time,
Levan’s Catering and Special Events
The truth about menu planning by DUANE HUTSON is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.