We’ve had calls recently from a number of brides and thought we’d start with Rachel (and ‘technically’ her fiance Theodore as well since they’re working on this together) who are asking about buffet service and how long it takes to feed people. They’ve looked all over the internet and asked and no one is giving them a straight answer. Well, it’s time to cut to the chase and give them some much needed help. (Apologies to Radio Shack…. ‘You’ve got wedding questions, we’ve got answers!’)
Keep in mind, this is based on our experience at many weddings and we’re not caterers. We’re wedding professionals that deal heavily with the timeline and ask questions of caterers and other vendors so we can get a better understanding of the timeline for an event to make things flow smoothly and keep people entertained. There are some wedding planners that can help with this, but there are also wedding planners that deal almost exclusively with decor (more of a wedding decorator than planner, but that’s another discussion for later).
Keep in mind, the efficiency of a buffet is tied to what’s on the buffet, if the guests or catering staff is doing the serving, how quickly the food is replenished, how much experience the staff has, and LOTS of other factors.
So, let’s talk staffing first. Proper staffing is a MAJOR factor in the speed of service. Not having enough for plated service means they don’t get the plates out fast enough, and not having enough on a buffet can mean slow service or food running out and causing delays.
Plated Service: You need one server for every 15-20 people and often you need those people for up to 8 hours total.
Buffet Service: You need 1 server per 20-25 people for about 4 hours.
(Thanks to Sonoma Catering for this information on staffing guidelines.)
As you increase the number of people, the amount of time to get them fed can reach HUGE numbers if you’re not careful. In general, once you hit anywhere from 150-250+ people (see variables above) it’s better to move to a plated service because they can serve them faster than they can on a buffet. Other alternatives are moving to food stations (where you don’t have as much of a ‘line’) or a mixture of plated, buffet, and food stations.
So numbers: Assuming standard fare on a buffet – no carving stations or areas that take a long time… about 45 seconds per person is a good idea of what to expect with the amount of time varying from 30 seconds to 1 minute per person. Carving stations should figure 45 seconds – 2 minutes per person with 60 seconds being a ‘good’ figure to work with, but not every person hits every carving station.
That means, 75 people, being fed on a single sided buffet will take 75*45=3375 seconds or roughly 56 minutes. A double sided buffet will cut that time in half to about a half hour. Again, these are ‘rough’ estimates. If you want to do your own ‘timing’ experiment – once a buffet line is populated count how many seconds between people picking up a plate.
We know Rachel has other questions on logistics, and we’ll try to address them in a future blog post, but we figured she might want this information sooner rather than later.
As for other brides asking questions, we’re working on that. Tracy and Tiffani, there’s a LOT of information you asked for and we’ll try to get it all posted. Some we have already, some we need to get, and some is going to vary based on the specifics of the county, community, and even the address in some cases. We’ll try to get some information posted within the next week or two.
First Day Entertainment is a wedding entertainment company providing a DJ and Master of Ceremonies for weddings throughout Pensacola, Mobile, Destin, and the Emerald Coast. They specialize in creative entertainment for discerning couples – coupling cultural, religious, and personal taste into your wedding entertainment.