Wedding feasts and corporate dinners are perpetual affairs, especially for countries competing to be world-class MICE venues. In turn, this has also contributed to the increased demand for quality banquets and buffets.
High demand and expectations also means high profit potential for restaurants and hotels. However, preparing for banquets and buffets can be stressful for chefs – we have to plan a great menu, meet diners’ expectations, and strike that fine balance between having enough food to go around and wasting too much food because of inaccurate estimates.
Fret not, we’ve spoken with some of the industry’s top chefs and put together a list of 4 recommendations they have for planning, preparing and successfully running outstanding banquets and buffets.
Plan how your diners will move
Banquets and buffets involve a lot of group movement. In a banquet setting, you need to think about guests who are mingling with one another as service is going on.
Meanwhile at buffets, you know that diners will be busy shuffling around the buffet floor, selecting their favourites from buffet stations at various locations of the dining area.
As a restauranteur, you need to plan how your diners will move around. Some questions you may want to ask are:
Is there a logical flow to my buffet lines?
Will diners be accidentally bumping into each other as they enter and exit queues and navigate between food areas?
Is there enough space for everyone to move around easily?
Does the service staff have enough room to properly serve diners at banquets?
Can seating arrangements be better optimised for the convenience of diners and/or service staff?
With effective planning, you can avoid many potential service-related issues and deliver first class service to diners.
Place drinks separately from food
At buffets, getting drinks holds up the line. Filling up a beverage cup takes time and queues form quickly. To avoid this issue, place drinks on a separate table away from where you set out the food. Better yet, prepare your drinks and place them in glasses so diners can simply pick them up and go.
A similar issue can occur at banquets. When it gets busy, servers serving drinks may get in the way of those carrying food. To avoid this situation, set up a different area in your kitchen for making drinks. This simple arrangement will allow servers to move around more freely.
Make napkins easy to grab
Be sure that there are plenty of napkins around, and that they are always within easy reach. At a banquet, keep extra napkins handy at side-serving tables. And at buffets, put out large stacks of napkins at the end of where you're serving food. This makes it easier for guests to grab extras when they need to clean something up.
Place cutlery at the end of lines
If there’s one common problem in buffet lines (especially catering lines) that needs to be addressed, it’s this – placing cutlery at the start of the buffet line. There’s simply no reason to ask diners to balance their cutlery on their plates, or in their already full hands. After all, diners are there to enjoy delicious food.
So, we recommend allowing diners to fill their plates with food, then pick up their cutlery at the end of the line. Your diners and service staff will appreciate this simple but important gesture.
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