There is this big misconception that buffet meals are cheaper than plated meals, especially for formal catered events. But almost always the opposite is true: plated meals are usually less expensive per person and it’s all because of portion control.
When you put a plate down in front of someone, you control the portions. You give him or her one portion of the main entree, plus a vegetable and a side (or whatever else accompanies) and that’s it.
When you put out a buffet, you have to contend with people taking generous heaping portions and potentially going up for seconds, even thirds (or fourths… not that this girl has ever done that, I swear!). Plus many buffets feature multiple main courses (beef and chicken) and multiple sides (pasta salad and potato salad), and most people like to try a little bit of everything. Caterers need to be prepared to serve the number of guests, which requires some guesswork on their end to figure out how much food to prepare (usually more than your guarantee so you don’t run out of food). On the flip side, for a caterer to prepare a plated meal for your guests, if you have 50 guests, they need 50 entrees (plus any overage they build in if it’s a larger banquet).
I think this misconception stems from people’s perception of buffets versus plated. Plated meals are viewed as more formal while buffets can be reminiscent of a cafeteria. From the guest’s perspective, however, a buffet gives the guest more control over their meal.
I would caution that occasionally a buffet will be cheaper than plated, but I’ve often found that this is because of the items being featured.
My recommendation is to always choose the meal that works better for your program. A plated meal can be served quicker than a buffet. A buffet also takes up more space in a room. Choose whichever makes more sense for the meal.
What are your thoughts?
Photo via Bridal Guide