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Cook Talk

Wedding Reception
Our wedding reception will be about 220-240 people. We're having BBQ sandwiches, coleslaw, baked beans, and green leaf salad catered. I plan to have one 8' table for the chafing dishes and everyone go through on both sides of that table. For dessert, we're doing homemade blackberry, chess, and pecan pies.

Can you estimate:
1. How long it will take for everyone to go through the buffet line?
2. How much coffee to make to go with dinner (we have 12 oz. paper cups)?

Lisa, this is absolutely not enough serving space for this menu for this many people, and you need to work on the menu, also.

Assuming the catering is full service, not drop off, who is responsible for set up and clean up of the area? This will take 12-15 people.

If you try to use 1 table, it will be over an hour and a half before everyone is served; some people will be finished before others are served.

You need at least 2 2 sided serving areas just for the dinner, and if you use an 8 foot table, you also need a separate one for the desserts and another for the beverage service. Yes, that means you need 2 sets of chafing dishes as well.

You can use the beverage planning page dinner/reception level coffee for guidance, for at least 200. and to add a cold beverage, even if just iced tea or lemonade, about 8 gallons per 100.

Your menu does not offer any options for any vegetarian or non pork eaters. Consider adding either vegetarian patties or sausages, or a side dish such as macaroni and cheese which can serve as an alternative entree.

You also need an appetizer area, especially with this light supper. Here is why:

A self organized buffet is a real challenge to the organizers, and things don't always come together as smoothly as hoped. By planning and setting up an appetizer area or "nibble table" which is ready when the guests begin to arrive, the cooks and servers have time to complete the arrangement of the dinner buffet. This is especially critical if there are children among the guests, or there is a wait before dinner, as at a wedding reception.

This does not have to be complicated. Three items, plus a punch, or two if one is alcoholic, are sufficient. Typically, include a fruit tray, a cheese tray and an attractive dip or spread; or you can go with a dinner theme such as TexMex with chips, salsas, Texas caviar and guacamole; Italian with bruschetta or antipasto; maybe shrimps or other cold seafood, if budget permits.

One appetizer service area is needed for each 100 guests.

Don't be dismayed by the extra plans you need to make; nothing is more disappointing than a wedding reception with unhappy guests that does not go well.

Thanks, Ellen.

If I have two buffet tables (each set up for guests to go on both sides), would that be sufficient? How long do you suppose it would take then?

We're not having a long wait between ceremony and reception, as all the photos will be taken beforehand. Do you still think there's a need for appetizers?

I could change the menu to add mac & cheese as a side. Do you think that would be good then?

Also, how much meat would you recommend (pulled pork and chicken)?

Yes with 4 lines you are looking at about 40 minutes to serve.

Adding mac and cheese as a side would be very helpful, and slightly reduce the meat need. 1 pound pasta per 10, 1 quart sauce per pound, 1/2 to 1 pound cheese per pound. Or at least 10 full trays if ordered from the caterer.

You want at least 5 ounces ready to eat per person, or a scant 1 pound per 3; so a total of 80 pounds, for one meat. With 2, allow 10% more or about 88 pounds, 6 pork for every 4 chicken.

Yes. I do think you should plan something as an appetizer. With the lines and even a brief wait, without appetizers some people will be waiting over an hour for their food. Even simple chips and a few dips would be a good start. 1 pound chips per 10-12; 1 pint dip per pound.

Hope this helps.

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