Bye Bye Buffet

Crowding elbow to elbow, mingling by a buffet table and grazing as a group — that reception scenario doesn’t match the 2020 mentality. Although communal congregating may not be the ideal way to feed your guests, there is a groundswell of excitement about innovative approaches to reception cuisine. Consider this pivotal moment a chance to impress your friends and family with customized service they won’t want to miss.

The idea of tableside service is one Valerie Gernhauser, owner, principal planner and designer of Sapphire Events, sees as an elevated moment for a couple to provide their guests.

“All signs point to a VIP experience of individual service,” said Gernhauser. “It would be a lot like a French culinary moment where the food is somewhat prepared for you in advance, but the final touches are done in front of you with the preparer walking you through what you’re about to see and taste.”

She envisions guests at designated seats personally waited on by a dedicated table server who delivers concepts like individual mini charcuterie boards, flights of New Orleans staples such as turtle soup, shrimp and grits, and one-bite crab cakes, or trios of oysters done three ways.

“There would be more of a focus on presentation and display and seeing the food as art,” she says.

James Filtz, director of meetings and special Events, at The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans, sees the experience as part of the overall “eatertainment” and suggests incorporating a digital menu to further elevate the level of customization.

“I think the digital experience for a couple could be an opportunity to uniquely personalize their wedding,” said Filtz. “A bride and groom can set up an app or a microsite so before guests walk into the event they’ve already selected their food or listed any dietary restrictions,” said Filtz, who adds that it will eliminate the need for paper menus.

He also sees a digital menu as a chance for the bride and groom to provide curated city itineraries for guests.

“Finding a way to incorporate food and beverage into their event experience with activities guests can do in town means the wedding doesn’t end when the cake is served,” said Filtz. “If Old New Orleans Rum is served in your drink, maybe you want to learn more about the distillery — or if there’s an appetizer you liked at the reception that the Ritz serves during high tea, there’s a link that takes you there.”

To keep guests’ curiosities piqued, he recommends delaying some of the culinary details until the day of the festivities.

“One of the special things about a wedding are the surprises and unique things, so you might want to keep at least a few under the hat, so to say!”

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