Saturday, October 5, 2013

Serving Pieces for the Buffet


      How did you choose the date for your wedding?  I just read about the number of people have who chosen 11/12/13 for their wedding date.  There is a logic to choosing this date, but while most weddings occur on Saturday, this date falls on a Tuesday.  David's Bridal now tracks dates chosen for weddings and is predicting 2,300 weddings that day, compared to 350 last year.  If you haven't set your date yet, and believe that a numerical sequence is important, there will be one more sequential date in the near future: 12/13/14.  The next won't occur until 1/2/2103.

     And on that note,  while Saturday is the most popular day of the week for a wedding, you can reduce venue rental costs by booking your event on a Friday evening, or Sunday afternoon.

Starting to Plan for the Buffet

Have you ever gone to an event and seen 25 people waiting in a line that snakes back and away from the beginning of the buffet? 

If you are renting a facility there will be a set time when everyone needs to be out the door, with the room returned to its original unadorned state.

And although there might not appear to be a connection, the length of time it takes for everyone to progress through the buffet is one of the most controllable events of the evening.  It is going to take X amount of time for the first dance, the toasts, cutting the cake and the other rituals.  But, by planning on setting up the buffet to accommodate the number of guests  to be served, you can ensure that there will be amble time for all the other planned activities.

First you need to have an idea of how many serving pieces you will need.  This will be determined by two factors:  how many guests there are and how long of a time frame there is for them to "go through the buffet".   If you have 150 guests and only one buffet line your reception is going to thrown out of schedule. What do you do?  I have found the most effective method to stay on schedule is to increase the number of serving lines.  This can be done by either serving from the front and back sides of the buffet line, or, doubling the length of the buffet and duplicating the lay-out; which doubles or quadruples the number of people that can be served at one time.  And, you will need additional serving pieces if that turns out to be the game plan. 

     How many types of food will you be serving?  The September 21st blog contained 4 pages of worksheets to help determine how many different types of dishes, based on the meal, you might want to serve.

Start with the information from that worksheet  - how many dishes (recipes) will you be serving? 

How many guests are you expecting? 

Rule of Thumb I use for the number of serving lines
25-50 guests  -  1 layout of food with serving from the front side = 1 line

51-150 guests - 1 layout of food with serving on front and back sides  = 2 lines

151 + guests  - 2 layouts of food with serving on front and back sides = 4 lines  (guests start at opposite ends of the buffet table, on the front and back side- each line ends in the middle of the buffet)

For 50 to 150 guests, add 1 additional serving piece for each item not being served in a chafing dish.  This will provide speedy replacements for the various food items on the buffet as they are depleted.  If you are serving 4 lines plan on 2 back-up serving pieces for each dish on the buffet. 
All hot items should be served in chafing dishes.   
Disposable aluminum chafers are inexpensive; but they are also very flimsy.  Most rental companies offer a standard brushed stainless model and a high-end fancier model.  The standard model works wonderfully....the lid will be removed prior to serving so the food is going to be the focal point of the presentation.  A picture on the Oct 2nd blog shows standard chafers "dressed up" with linen napkins tied around the handles.  It is a professional trick that is widely used and is very effective.

 If you rent standard chafers and have over 50 guests definitely order extra hotel pans for the "back-up".   Or, prepare the food in disposable aluminum pans beforehand and then set those in the hotel pan, which sits above the hot water in the chafing dish.  Two rectangular disposable pans will fit in one full sized hotel pan.  If you try to put the disposables pans in a chafing dish, without the hotel pan, there is a potential for a disaster - due to the weight of the food and the thinness of the aluminum.  I faced the following situation:  I was on site setting up for a party in a condominium clubhouse.  My client told me that there were chafers we could use.  When I set up the buffet I found that the chafers didn't have hotel pans - oh oh!   One of the dishes was a fabulous asparagus leek lasagna prepared in disposable half sized pans.  I pre-cut the lasagna pieces - not realizing that the knife went through the bottom of the disposable pan because it was so thin.  Fortunately the service went rapidly so a minimal amount of water leaked into the lasagna......disaster barely averted!

Full sized hotel pan
1/2 sized hotel pan
Note:  Rental hotel pans are available in 2 depths, use the deeper ones - you will not have to refill as frequently.

Renting the serving pieces is an option.  But by starting to visit your local thrift shops and/or on line sites early in the planning stage for LARGE bowls, platters, cake plates with covers (no - not for the cake) and even ornamental trays you will save quite a sum.   

These are two pieces that I picked up at a thrift shop.  The back platter is 16" long and the one in front is 19"....both are in the suggested size range as you will see below. 

Suggested Sizes and Shapes to accommodate large quantities of food


Oval          16" x 12"
                  22" x 16"

Oblong      17" x 14"
                  24" x 18"


Round       16" * 24" Diameter  3" to 10" deep
Oblong      18" x 12" x 3"
                  18" x 30"  x 31/2"


Oval          14" x 10"
                  15" x 12"
                  17" x 13"
                  21" x 15"
                  10" x 14"
                  13" x 17"
Oblong      18", 20", 22" or 24" long

                 Measurement   Capacity
Round       6"                     18.8 oz.
                  8"                     1.65 Qts.
                10"                     5lbs. or 3.2 Qts.
                12"                     5.8 Qts.
                13"                     10 lbs.  
                15"                     11.2 Qts.
                18"                     20.2 Qts.
                23"                     40 Qts.



               12 oz.
               22 oz.
                 5 Qts.

As you acquire the pieces one thing to bear in mind is that the table will appear more balanced if all the serving pieces have either rounded edges, or squared edges.  They can be mixed but it is easier to arrange if they have a common edge.

NEXT;  More about serving pieces and utensils

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