See What Catering Style Is Best for Your Wedding or Party:

Buffet, Plated, or Family Style

When thinking about your party or wedding catering, there are several types of service. The most common are appetizers or appetizer stations, family style, buffet, and plated service.  Part of what's made us the best Los Angeles catering company for 15 years is helping you with your own vision of your wedding or party along with your catering budget. See what catering style best for your wedding, dinner party, or corporate event.


Appetizer Catering and Appetizer Stations


For spaces that don't lend themselves to sit-down meal service, appetizer catering and hors d'oeuvres create a party-like setting where guests can meet and mingle. Our friendly and experienced staff circulate during the duration of your wedding or party, refreshing trays to keep hot foods hot and colder foods cool. (We even use custom, covered appetizer catering platters for COVID precautions.)


Appetizer and hors d'oeuvres catering is one of the most costly types of full-service party and wedding catering, especially in Los Angeles, the heart of the entertainment industry and a social hub for all southern California. Appetizer catering isn't like a plate of smokies and cheese for the big game on Sunday. Each appetizer dish is like an entire mini-entree, with every piece needing to be cooked, assembled, garnished, sauced, and plated. We estimate 2 pieces of each appetizer per person. (This goes for appetizer stations at weddings, too.) If your party or event has seven (7) different appetizers, for example, we have to make each guest 12-14 individual, composed pieces of food. For 40-person wedding catering, that’s almost 560 appetizers! (Contrast with 40 steaks, sides, and salads for sit-down dinner party catering.)


Most parties start in the early evening, so even though you're not serving a main course, guests will miss dinner, be more hungry, and eat more food. Cocktail party catering tends to go for longer for periods of time, too. So while a wedding dinner service might start at 6 pm and end by 7:30 pm, a cocktail party might last till much later in the evening, 11 pm and after, and guests will expect appetizers to be served the whole time.


We're the top wedding caterers in Beverly Hills, Bel Air, and more because we know how to work with you and your wedding catering budget to make your dream day an unforgettable success. If you're looking to reduce costs, try adjusting the hours, like 8-11 pm or an afternoon party or wedding at 2-5 pm. Shorter parties, after meal times, imply that guests should eat smaller meals and join you for a bite after. Consider fewer appetizers and a buffet dinner as well.


Sit Down-Plated Service - With a formal sit-down dinner, your guests sit at tables and the meal is served to them by the waitstaff. This is considered more formal than any other type of service. It looks elegant and stylish, and guests will eat the dish the way it was designed to be eaten, with the right amount of sauce and appropriate side items. Another big advantage of a sit-down dinner is that it gives you more control over the timing of your reception. You can plan the exact time for each element of your wedding reception (champagne toast, the first dance, etc). Also, your guests don't have to wait in line to get their food.


While the food costs are usually less than the other styles of service, since the portions are controlled, your staff costs will be much higher, as you will need at least 1 server per 1-2 tables, plus the service captain, plus more kitchen staff to execute the plating in an efficient and timely manner.


Family Style - This is very trendy right now. And it's perfect for a more informal couple or event. However, it is also surprisingly, the most expensive!  First off, you need more food, since every platter needs to look plentiful when it's placed on the table. And since everyone can serve themselves, including seconds, you have to have enough of each item for every person. Plus you need lots of staff to bring all the platters to each of the tables. You don’t want the mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables to get to the table and get the braised short ribs and creamed spinach 10 minutes later.  Lastly, the cost to rent all the platters needed for each of the menu items, for each of the tables, can be very high. With that said, if you're looking for a relaxed, casual environment, where guests have more control over their meals and maybe even some leftovers, family style might just be perfect for you!


Buffet Service - This style consists of platters or chafing dishes of foods artfully arranged on central tables. Guests usually move along the buffet line and serve themselves or an attendant will assist with the main courses. When their plates are filled, guests take them to a dining table to eat. Servers usually provide beverage service at tableside. The pros/cons to this style of service is you have a little bit lower staff costs, but higher food costs, since you don't know what the guests will select, and they control their portions and can come back for seconds. Plus, even with a two sided buffet line, you will have people lined up to take their turn.  Key to the success of buffet is to call tables one by one. Rather than having a free for all with all 150 guests in line at once.

Another way to off set the waiting is to have the first course, usually a salad, pre placed when guests get to their tables, or just after, so guests have something to eat/do while waiting for their turn at the buffet line.


Action Stations/Food Stations. Similar to a buffet, except Chefs prepare and serve foods at the buffet (rather than in the kitchen). Adding a couple of action stations to Buffet style of service can help alleviate the long lines at the main buffet, plus it adds a fun interactive element to the event and guests love the chance to interact with the chef.


Foods that lend themselves well to action station service include wok stations, mashed potato bars, fajitas, pasta stations, grilled meats, omelets, crepes, sushi, gourmet taco, gourmet burgers, and flaming desserts. These stations are sometimes called “performance stations” or “exhibition cooking.” Extra cost associated with these types of stations are one or more chefs for the station(depending on guest count), extra pans/tools for cooking and plates for each serving.

Hand Service. This is a very elegant, expensive style of service that is sometimes used for small gourmet -meal functions. Guests are seated. There is one server for every two guests and all guests at a table are served at precisely the same time. Servers wear white gloves. This style is sometimes called “service in concert or synchronized service.