To Buffet…or not to Buffet?

August 4, 2009

019 Here it is. The Western Pennsylvania wedding buffet line.


The chafers may be a different style, the plates may be bone china or plastic, the skirting may be white or ivory, and the tables may be curved, straight or zigzagged, but the concept remains the same. Wait till your table is released, stand in line to get a plate, serve yourself the foods of your choosing (or in the case of JPC be served by servers behind the food line), and go back to your seat juggling a dinner plate, probably a salad plate, a dinner roll and perhaps some silverware.

I was recently at the mall and ran into a bridesmaid in the wedding party of one of our upcoming weddings. After pleasantries were exchanged, the first question asked was “what’s for dinner at the reception…” followed by “please tell me it’s not a buffet.” Now I am not by any means saying that buffets do not have their place. Nor am I saying that every wedding should turn away from the concept if it suits their event plan. I am saying though, that there is room for some adventure and guests who attend many weddings each wedding season long for something different occasionally.


At Jody’s Pantry Catering we offer our wedding clients a variety of service styles and options to beat the buffet duldrums. From action stations to family style tableside service, duo plate sit down to formal sit down there is a service style to fit every budget and every event plan. Currently we are finding a real trend toward family style tableside service in our area. Certainly not a new concept in the catering market, but definately a way to bring the buffet to your guests, rather than them feeling as if they have to come to the food plate in hand.

With family style tableside service several side benefits to the style exist. These include that fact that your guest tables sparkle with a formal flare because the tables are elegantly preset with dinner plates, salad plates, and flatware before guests arrive. This makes for lovely table decor and a finished room. Secondly, there is no need for response cards that denote meal selections on your invitation, worrisome calculations of what guest ordered what entree…but rather guests are treated to a buffet of food brought directly to their table in elegant teak wood salad bowls, porcelain side dish bowls and platters with silver serving utensils. And finally, there is always more where that came from…side dish and salad refills are always available. 064

This service style also creates an ice breaking, warm family feel among your guests at each table and affords them the opportunity to be pampered tableside. Additionally, table service is much faster from a service perspective with family style than a formal sit-down dinner, and usually much quicker than a standard buffet line as well due to the organized nature of it.

If you are still thinking to yourself “I just really think a buffet is easier… better… more us…” then why not consider breaking the buffet into individualized action stations where the guests are still responsible to retrieve their own food, but the presentation is more unique in that chef’s are attending the stations and the assortment of foods at the stations is more varied.

For instance, how about a meat carving station that consists of a Flagship of Prime Beef with accompaniments like horseradish sauce, or our famous housemade steak sauce and then a slow roasted Frenched Rack of Pork carved along side of that with a cranberry walnut pesto or a rosemary infused wine sauce. Add a mashed potato martini station with an array of savory toppings to load your potatoes with…cheddar cheese, sauteed scallions and capers, bacon, chili, fresh chives or dill, basil pesto, salsa verde…you name it. To round out the concept, you could have an interactive organic salad bar as well, or a live action pasta station with pastas, sauces, and a bevy of mix ins like chicken, shrimp, alfredo sauce, sauteed fresh mushrooms or caramelized onions with fresh basil. It would be a “buffet” to remember.


I hope I have stimulated your food creativity and spurred you to consider some basic options to spice up your reception dinner service.

Feel free to email me or a member of our event staff through our “contact us” form and we will be happy to assist you in dreaming up some buffet alternatives! More non-buffet options to come…stay posted!

Scrumptious Regards,


All photos property of Jody’s Pantry Catering.

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