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Catering a Family Style Dinner Service?

Family style dinner service is starting to become more and more popular these days and I’m not surprised because there is definitely something fundamentally satisfying about sharing food!

I can remember begging my mom when I was younger to put our dinner in bowls and on platters so we could serve from the table (my best friend’s family did this every night and was obviously the best thing ever!). Thinking back on it, after working all day I’m sure the last thing my mom wanted to do was create more dirty dishes just to serve from the table… “Pass the peas please” is what I told her I wanted to be able to say and once in a while, she entertained me, even though for our family, we only ate like that on the big holidays…you know, Christmas and Thanksgiving.

 Family style creates such a fun interaction between everyone and is a bit nostalgic in brining you back to those nights at home with family around the dinner table sharing the best/worst part of the day over a hot meal.

What to expect? 

Family style service encourages conversation, helps pace the meal and ultimately brings your guests together. After cocktail hour, guests will sit down to pre-set tables and not have to worry about getting back up for a while! With family style, the food is served table-side presented on platters to be passed around between your guests…usually one person will hold the platter while the other serves, and so on, down the line or around the table. This style service kind of resembles a restaurant setting in that you have a waiter coming by asking if anyone would like seconds, drink re-fills, etc. which makes your guests experience even more memorable.

If you are leaning towards a family style dinner service, here are a few things to consider: 

Guest Count– Family Style service tends to flow a bit better with a smaller guest count like 80-100. 

Rentals– Besides rentals for place settings/décor, think about what is needed to serve all of the food on (platters, bowls, and utensils). This adds up quick! 

Space– After your place settings, centerpieces and décor, do you have enough room on your tables for platters and bowls? This service style requires ample space.

Cost– A bit more staff is needed here than say, a buffet. This ensures guests get fed around the same time and servers can give each table the attention they need.

Written by Skylar Snyder, Event Specialist at The Vanilla Orchid Catering