Buffet vs. Plated Dinner: Which one is best for your event?

Choosing between having a buffet or plated dinner is one of the many decisions you must make when planning an event. All these little decisions add up, and you can easily get stressed, overwhelmed, and feel unsure over which is the best choice. There are pros and cons to both a buffet and plated dinner, and in this article, we will go over both options and talk about some of the benefits and downsides of each to help you make a more informed decision. Hopefully, the information below will help you make the best possible choice!



Buffets are a lot more customizable than plated meals in many ways. Buffets typically offer more variety than plated meals, and they allow guests to mix and match entrees and sides to satisfy their individual tastes and appetites. It also offers more freedom for guests to eat at their leisure, instead of having a set mealtime. Buffets also require much less help to run than plated meals. You will still need servers to work the buffet tables to keep plates and utensils ready, refill dishes, etc. However, this requires less manpower than plated dinners for which there needs to be more servers running at one time to ensure everyone gets their dishes at relatively the same time. Buffets are also typically less costly than plated dinners.


Buffets have the potential to be a little disruptive when it comes to the itinerary of your event. For example, if you are supposed to be starting a toast at a certain time, but there’s a line to the buffet, this could complicate things. Speaking of lines, guests may end up waiting a long time to get their food if the buffet isn’t set up in an efficient way. Guests might begin to feel frustrated if they do not get their food in a timely manner, especially if they have to spend a long time standing in line.

Is a buffet the best choice for your event?

Buffets are better suited for more casual, laidback events where there isn’t a strict schedule. Social events such as conferences, parties, luncheons, and pre-game functions are good for this style of dining experience. Also, if you have a limited budget, a buffet may be the way to go.

Plated Dinner


Plated dinners feel organized, formal, and elegant. Guests are able to sit back and relax as they are served, cutting out a lot of the potential chaos, crowding, and frustration that buffet-style meals often create. It’s also a myth that plated dinners don’t offer guests options — in fact, guests are able to choose from a menu of typically 3-4 options. These menus typically offer two or more protein options, as well as a vegetarian option. Guests are able to make their selections far ahead of time so they know exactly what to expect come dinner time. Provided you have hired an adequate number of servers, every guest should start and finish their courses at relatively the same time. Because of this, plated dinners offer the efficiency and timeliness that buffets cannot.


One of the biggest downsides of plated dinners is the cost. While they are typically less expensive than buffets in terms of price, hiring the necessary number of servers to ensure that all guests get their food in a timely manner can put a major dent in your budget. Not only that, but you will definitely want to tip them when the night is over as well, increasing your total cost even further. Plated dinners also come with a lot more restrictions. For example, while they do leave some room for variety, they are not very customizable at all. If a guest wanted more of a certain side or more food in general, this isn’t possible for plated dinners. What you are served is what you get.

Is a plated dinner the best choice for your event?

Plated dinners are better suited for more formal, black-tie occasions and weddings. They are also ideal for events on a strict schedule where there isn’t a lot of time for mingling and grazing.

In conclusion…

As you can see, both options have their pros and cons. The option that is best for you will depend on your individual preferences and the nature of your event, so take each element into consideration and decide what is most important to you. If you value efficiency and sticking to your schedule, then a plated dinner affair might be right for you. However, if you’re having a more casual event and a limited budget, a buffet may be the best option. At the end of the day, try not to stress about it too much. As long as you put a little thought and consideration into the decision, you likely won’t go wrong. Plus, your guests will get fed either way! Good luck!