Many restaurants in accommodation complexes have times when patronage is low; many do not even cater for lunchtime diners, especially in tourist areas where guests are out sightseeing during the day.
Banquet-style dining to fill restaurant downtimes can be a great profit area for small conventions, business meetings, club functions, birthday bashes and weddings. But they have to be done well as return business depends on a successful function. People enjoying a wedding will most likely recommend a venue for their work, club or family gathering.
The key ingredients for successful buffet catering is fresh produce, exquisite food preparedness, guest comfort and – above all, presentation.
Successful buffet service requires proper lighting and heating methods so food looks and tastes fresh, which means sourcing everything to serve, hold, heat and cook, as well as furniture, linen, cutlery, crockery, beverageware and decoration.
Keeping it fresh
When preparing large quantities of food for lots of people, it can be difficult to keep food hot and fresh. That is where food warmers make a practical and convenient option. The purpose of food warmers is to keep food temperatures above the hazard analysis and critical control point danger zone. The HACCP danger zone is identified as 5°C to 60°C, which is the temperature range where most pathogens will multiply therefore, food that is held between 5°C and 60°C may become time-temperature abused and could lead to serious or fatal illnesses in guests.
Food warmers and rethermalizers can help to keep food at safe holding temperatures, but there is one main difference between the two. Food warmers keep hot, prepared food above the danger zone. Chilled or frozen food that is placed in a warmer will not reheat and rise above the danger zone, resulting in time-temperature abuse. If you are reheating food, it must be warmed by other means (stovetop, microwave or oven), then placed in a warmer. Unlike regular food warmers, rethermalizers can heat chilled or frozen foods through the danger zone to a safe holding temperature in the same unit.
Food warmers are also food presentation mediums, maximising product visibility and desirability. Countertop warmers are often used in the back of the house to hold prepared foods, saving space in the kitchen, providing more time for chefs to prepare and cook other foods, and helping staff quickly plate already-prepared entrées, sides, and more.
If you’re transporting pre-cooked meals from your kitchen to another on-site location, you will need the proper buffet equipment to keep safe and desirable temperatures – from chafers and chafing dishes to heat lamps and buffet warmers, carts and serving equipment.
It is also important to set up an eye-catching food presentation to entice customers to try your signature dishes. Decorating buffet ideas and setting up a beautiful presentation can add so much to an event.
All of us have seen a buffet table that was less than inspiring. It was set in a utilitarian fashion –- line ’em up and feed ’em – long tables with the food falling into rank like an army chow line.
Not so today. Now most caterers, chefs and event hosts put more thought and creativity into creating memorable buffets or food stations at their events – so much so that these buffetscapes, or setting a buffet table, actually become part of your event décor – they help further the ambience and atmosphere of the theme you have chosen for your event.
Damask linen table cloths, skirted tables, table back drops, fitted chair covers with sashes, signs to label the featured dishes, centre piece table decorations, flowers, collectables, festive bunting and even ceiling draping, adds to the WOW factor.
As a restauranteur, you know that traditional cloth napkins have a time and a place in the restaurant and catering industry; but innovations in disposable napkin materials are making them a serious contender in applications once dominated by their cloth counterparts. Gone are the days where commodity paper napkins were the only other alternatives to traditional cloth napkins. Today, linen-feel napkins offer a step up from 2- or 3-ply paper napkins, while ensuring a thick, soft, and highly-absorbent option that matches the look and feel of actual linen. Linen-feel napkins are available in a variety of colors and patterns to match any place setting, and they are guaranteed to add an upscale look to your establishment.
Air-laid paper offers an environmentally-friendly product, great for eco-conscious operators. It’s made by converting soft, random-laid fibres made from wood pulp or synthetic fibers into a sturdy and absorbent web, using air instead of water to transfer the fibres. Compared with normal wet-laid paper, air-laid paper is much softer, fluffier and more porous. It can be dyed, printed, embossed, coated, and made solvent resistant – and it is very absorbent.
Comfortable seating paramount
Providing comfortable furniture for guests is absolutely paramount. At many events, guests are expected to sit for lengthy periods and hard, upholstered seats that are too low or too high are not an option any longer. A boring speaker is 10-times more mind-numbing when your back or bum hurts.
There is a wide range of fantastically comfy chairs (many that are stackable for easy storage) and tables to match that make a worthwhile investment.
One final area to consider is to compare the costs of gas versus electricity for your buffet catering. Using a gas unit will raise the temperature of the kitchen or dining area in which it is being used, while electric units will not.
If you’re going to be setting up in one location primarily, then natural gas or hardwired electric units are both options for you. If, however, you need to be able to easily move your table, say from front of house to back of house, then a portable gas unit will be better for you.
Mobile electric steam tables with casters make your operation much more mobile. This is ideal for applications like breakfast bars, where you might need to put your table into storage after use and then easily take it out again the next morning. Most gas steam tables are designed to be stationary but casters can be mounted onto propane powered units for outdoor applications like catering events.
The smörgåsbord table originally was a meal where guests gathered before dinner for a pre-dinner drink, and was not part of the formal dinner to be followed.
Smörgåsbord became internationally famous at the 1939 New York World’s Fair exhibition, as the Swedes had to invent a new way of showcasing the best of Swedish food to large numbers of visitors.
The term buffet originally referred to the French sideboard furniture where the food was served, but eventually became applied to the serving format.