Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
May 16, 2008 11:57 AM

An Argument for Family Style Dining

Hi guys... I hope you can help me out with this regarding this little snag we just hit with our wedding reception venue.

We went in asking them to do Family Style dining. They agreed, but in the middle of the process got a new manager and she's scoffing at it trying to get us to do a buffet.

We are COMPLETEY against the buffet. We'd rather do a sit down meal, but that too would be not what we want. Idealy, we want the feel to be like Thanksgiving dinner, it's comfort irish food and we want folks to dig in and take from a selection of things (Cottage Pie, Corned Beef, etc...)

They are a medium sized restaurant (Can accomidate our 100 guests no problem), but they haven't done family style before, they are worrying about the waste of food, timing and that things will get cold.

What I need now a GOOD arguement as to why they should not worry and any hints we can give them to pull it off (Or at least feel better about pulling it off!). I know you guys will be 100% more creative than I am regarding what we should tell her or maybe have some ideas on how we can come to a middle ground.

Thanks so much.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Waste of food with family style? I don't get it. I think it's the same waste of food as you'll get with a buffet. There are issues of timing with family style. I think it's much easier for a restaurant to pull off a buffet than to fire dishes as the meal progresses. And the restaurant does have a point about food getting cold.

    But I think the best reason that you guys should do it family style is that you made an agreement with the restaurant (before the new manager) that your wedding reception would be family style. You may want to tell them Chinese weddings do it family style all the time -- but Chinese food normally doesn't take much time to cook as things are cut into bite-sized pieces. It may help if you tell us what is on your menu.

    1. Good for you on the family style! Ask the manager to call a Basque restaurant in Fresno and ask them how they manage night after night. And congratulations!

      1. Your argument as to why is that this is what they agreed to, it's not an unreasonable or unusual request and if they refuse to accommodate it, you will request your deposit back (if you gave one) and take your business elsewhere. It is not your job to educate a restaurant on how to handle service, whether it's seated, buffet, family style or any other service, suggest the chef and manager talk with other chefs and managers in town to find out how to properly service your guests in this manner, it's not your job. You should not have to CONVINCE them to do their jobs.

        1. Dommy -- You and Mattap... finally tying the knot!?! Congrats and how fantastic!!

          To address your particular current problem:

          First, have the new manager review both of your posts on this site and on the L.A. board. He or she will recognize that both of you are people of taste, enthusiasm, and sense of humor, and therefore be able to relax.

          Second, there should be LESS waste with family style than with either sitdown plated dinners or a buffet because people will serve themselves what they WANT. Those who don't like the vegie won't leave it sitting on the side of the plate. Those doing Atkins will avoid the starch or potato. There aren't the problems of long lines at the buffet with some early-grabbers lining up for seconds before others have even had firsts.

          The restaurant does have two legitimate concerns: One, how to keep things hot without the chafing dishes you have with a buffet. Two, the potential cost or waste problem of the most expensive items, the entrees, either being gobbled up or left uneaten. Of course, the heat issue is more of a problem with a plated meal, and the waste or cost issue is worse with a buffet. Ensure the manager that you will have a friendly crowd that won't horde food -- that if one table needs more salad while another has run out of pasta, either they will share or it will be ok for the serving staff to accommodate that sort of thing.

          Bottom line -- Sitdown, plated meals are perfectly predictable in terms of amounts, but require huge investments of personnel both in the back and the front of the house, and a lot goes uneaten. Buffets are the easiest for the caterers and items in chafing dishes stay hot, but they can be the most user-unfriendly, can result in incredible amounts of unused food (admittedly, it can be given to the hosts or the catering staff), and it is not what you want. Family-style can be the best of all worlds, particularly if some of the sides can be served cold or at room temp and you either provide more than one choice of entree or somehow portion-control that most costly dish.

          Good luck, mazel-tov, and post pics!!

          1 Reply
          1. re: nosh

            >>They agreed, but in the middle of the process got a new manager and she's scoffing at it trying to get us to do a buffet.

            Was the agreement in writing? If yes, case closed, next.

            Scoffing? Your money, your choice, no?


          2. Everyone has valid points, are you dead set on this restaurant, there are plenty of restaurants that would love to help you..

            Then there is also another point, your guest don't really care about family style or buffet or set plate, they just want free booze. Happy Wedding!!!!!

            2 Replies
            1. re: waitress

              We are kind of set on the Restaurant. It has many pluses and this is the one minus. As hound in LA, we have convinced restaurants to do family style and it has worked. But the owners seem to have more of an open mind then the place we are dealing with here. If push come to shove we will likely give in but it would be a disappointment. This is the first time we've made contact with the New managers and we haven't made a real argument yet. That will come in the next few days. Maybe we can come to a middle ground.

              If you have suggestions, pass them on, if not, wish us luck.

              Take Care

              - P.

              1. re: Mattapoisett in LA

                Stick to your guns. Family style just means that maintaining proper temps is done in the back and that servings are plattered rather than plated. Should not be a big deal. On the other hand, what do you have on the menu? Some dishes are more or less family-style appropriate.

                Congratulations to you as well!