When having friends over for dinner, it's the décor — candles, music, flowers — that sets the stage for the evening. Yet, how you serve the food also matters. Whether you’re looking to host a formal, sit-down meal during the holidays, or a casual get-together on a rainy weekend, the style of service influences your guests' dining experience. Just as you wouldn’t imagine hosting a Texas-style barbecue on fine, white bone china (Or would you? ), be sure to define your serving style — how you want the meal to be presented to guests — when planning your menu and décor to bring all of the elements of your party together in a cohesive way.
From the relaxed, buffet-style dinner where the food you serve — and how you serve it — is simple, to those more formal, restaurant-style meals with every detail meticulously considered, like you might find in a fine-dining establishment, there is a style of service to fit every host, anticipated dining experience, and location. When planning your next get-together, before you send out the invitations, consider the following serving styles.
1. Formal, Restaurant-Style Service
This style is often saved for festive holiday dinner parties, special celebratory occasions, or when the host is looking for an excuse to dress up and dine with one pinkie in the air. It’s time to bring out your best china, polish the silver, and to make friends with your butcher for a magnificent roast to anchor the meal. This is not the time for experimenting with new culinary masterpieces or taking shortcuts with inexpensive cocktails. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Jaimew)
A formal service should be well-rehearsed and is often paired with formal place settings, elegant centerpieces, and a carefully planned seating arrangement in the dining room. Plate each course in the kitchen and present each guest with their plate when the timing is right to make guests feel valued and pampered. (Whether you want to have the first course already plated and waiting on the table, or just a decorative charger and napkin at each place, is up to you.) With this serving style, your hosting skills and food are the focal point of the evening and play a large part in how the evening unfolds. Worried that your hosting or culinary skills are still young? Brush up on your hosting do’s and don’ts with these tips, and then be sure to have plenty of signature cocktails on hand to make up for any mishaps that may arise.