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Catering Service Styles

O'Sheas Catering |

wedding catering Tacoma

Whenever we talk about catering, food and drinks are the first things that popup on our mind. A big part of staging any successful event and of being a good host in general, is providing an exceptional dining service to your guests.

You also have to consider what type of dinner service is right for your party. Often the style of service will influence the varieties of food that the caterer offers. And the serving style also greatly affects your budget.

There are a number of options to consider, from cocktails and hors d’oeuvres to a proper plated dinner. Check out the popular serving styles and what they all mean.

Plated dinner

The most formal and traditional of the any dinner service styles, guests order individually and servers present the courses. Guests are usually given a choice of two to three entrees which they should select when they RSVP for the event. While guests may like this style, it is usually the priciest serving style because of the extra staff. Servers often first bring out a plated salad followed by a full plated meal. Plated dinner service is formal and elegant and suitable for most high end events, from wedding receptions to political fundraisers.


Buffet style service is perhaps the most casual type of meal service and it is a good choice for corporate events and fundraisers. At a buffet, guests select their food from either one long table or stations strategically placed throughout the room. There are tables for appetizers, for main courses and for desserts. You just have to approach the table that offers the food you want to eat. An advantage is that you can serve a varied menu from which guests can choose what they like and choose the exact portions they want.

Food Stations

Food stations are another self serving option that allows guests to create their meals. With the variety of food stations set up around the reception hall, guests move around and pick their favorites. Meals are cooked to order, so every guest will be able to get what they want prepared the way they want it – hot and fresh.

Family style

While similar to a plated sit-down dinner, family style events are less formal and are great for fostering guest interaction. Family style simply means that servers bring out large bowls and platters of food, which are then placed on the tables for guests to pass and self-serve. It also helps guests get to know each other since they often help serve one another and chat while doing so.

Russian service

The catering staff will give and present the food on the tray. The guests will be the one to get the food and drinks on the tray. A unique and exceptionally traditional form of service that presents a formal, “at home” and un-“catered” feeling.

French service

This service is perfect for formal presentations and fine dining events. Each waiter/waitress has his/her own responsibility. Since they have their own responsibilities, your guests do not need to approach the long table to get the food as it will come to you.

Cocktail style

Cocktail style is a cheap and cheerful option that will not leave you tons of leftovers. Instead of a full meal, this style allows you to serve hors d’ouevres either passed by servers or laid out buffet style so guests can self serve. Guests mix and mingle while sampling tasty tit-bits and sharing some fine cocktails. It is a good fit for smaller events, especially those of a more personal and festive nature.

The style of dinner service you choose will ultimately be informed by the type of event you are staging and the atmosphere you wish to create. Budget constraints also determine which serving style you can choose. Still, dining service is a key component of any event success.