March 29, 2017
By Amrutha Sarayu

Food plays an integral role in the success of any event, so naturally it becomes necessary to know which style of table service is appropriate for a certain event. It also becomes important to know what kind of food can be served under a particular type of table service. For instance, an afternoon reception should have food items that are easy to handle and can hold up well. Foods that are prone to drip or splatter should not be served during such events for obvious reasons: they are difficult to handle, and often messy. Here’s a list of some of the popular types of table service styles that you can adopt:

Reception Service: This type of table service requires light food to be served in a displayed buffet-style. Since guests do not usually sit down to eat at these type of events,

Butlered Hors d’Oeuvres Service

dishes that require a knife or are difficult to eat while standing are avoided and finger food is served instead.

Butlered Hors d’Oeuvres Service: Hors d’oeuvres are put on trays in the kitchen and passed around by servers. Guests serve themselves using cocktail napkins provided by the server. This style of table service is usually adopted for upscale receptions.

Buffet Service: Food is served on tables placed along a line and guests are expected to serve themselves and take their filled plates to a dining table to eat. In this table service, beverage is usually provided by servers at tableside. A very elegant buffet would have servers carry guests’ plates to their tables for them.

Action Stations: This kind of table service is similar to the buffet service, but here instead of servers, chefs stand at designated areas set up at the venue to prepare and serve the food. At these stations, guests get to watch and have their food cooked with the exact ingredients and in the manner that they prefer. Action stations usually serve dishes such as mashed potato, fajitas, pastas, grilled meats, omelettes, crepes, sushi and flaming desserts.

Cafeteria Service: This type of table service is also similar to a buffet. Guests stand in line, but do not help themselves. They are served by chefs and/or servers from behind the buffet line. This allows the servers to control portion sizes. In this service, sometimes only the expensive food items are served by a server, while the inexpensive items, such as salads, can be served by oneself.

Plated Buffet Service: This style of table service includes selection of pre-plated foods, such as entrées, sandwich plates and salad plates, are either set on a buffet table or on a rolling cart and then moved into the function room at the designated time. The individual plates are served on trays.

Plated (American) Service: In this table service, guests are seated and pre-plated foods are served by servers from the left. Beverages are served from the right, while used dishes and glasses are removed from the right. This type of table service is considered the most functional, common, economical, controllable and efficient type of service. The food items are not plated too far in advance of serving, as they may lose culinary quality.

Family-Style (English) Service: Guests are seated. Large serving platters and bowls filled with food are set on the dining tables by servers. Guests either help themselves from a revolving stand/tray on the table or they pass the food items to each other. Occasionally, a host would carve the meat.

pre set service

Pre-set Service: Here, food is already ready and served on the dining tables when guests are seated. This type of table service requires only those foods that retain their flavour and texture at room temperature because they will not be consumed immediately. Most common food items that are served are bread and butter. Quite often, appetisers are also included in the pre-set menu. For lunches with a limited time frame, occasionally salad and dessert are pre-set too.

Hand Service: Guests are seated. The food is pre-plated and the plates are fitted with dome covers. One server is assigned for every two guests and all guests at a particular table are served at precisely the same time. Each server carries two servings from the kitchen and stands behind two guests assigned to him or her. At the direction of the captain or maître d’hôtel, all dishes are set in front of the guests and their dome covers removed at precisely the same time. This procedure may be followed for all courses. This is an elegant style of table service that is sometimes also called “synchronised service.” Check out this cool video to see this type of table service in action.

The Wave: This is a swift method of serving where all servers start at one end of the function room and work straight across to the other end. Servers are not assigned workstations. Instead, they see the entire room as a single station. The wave is typically used in conjunction with plated and pre-set service styles. This type of table service helps serve large numbers of guests very quickly, usually using less labour.

If you want to make things more interesting at your event, you can incorporate more than one service style for a single meal. For instance, you might begin with reception service for appetisers, move into the banquet room where the tables are pre-set with salads, rolls and butter, use French service for the soup course, use Russian service for the entrée, and end the meal with a dessert buffet. Try any of these service styles in your next event. Find the perfect venue for your event here. If you know a type of table service style that we’ve missed to mention, please tell us in the comments section below.

Amrutha Sarayu

Amrutha Sarayu

Amrutha is a content writer and marketer at Cvent. She mainly writes about the meetings and events industry, with a special focus on technology that is designed for making the lives of planners easier. When not writing, she can be found taking part in reading challenges or watching food videos on YouTube. 
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