To Share or not to Share?

As dining has become less formal, so the social sharing culture has become more popular and this has definitely spread into the Wedding Sector too.  For couples planning their wedding day the benefit is that they are able to offer a wider choice of dishes to their guests and it can definitely get people talking; a real bonus at a wedding when you usually have lots of friends and family all meeting for the first time.

However, as a caterer we always advise that it is worth taking a moment to understand the pros and the cons of sharing platters before you make a final decision. There is no doubt that some culinary genres suit this style of eating much better than others, Italian, Spanish and Persian menus spring to mind immediately and in the right venue, with the right style of seating sharing platters can be nothing short of perfection…… But before you decide if they are for you read on……..

A wedding meal is a very different experience to eating at your favourite restaurant.  This is where the small dish and sharing platter concept first took off in the UK.  But what lay behind it?  Some suspect it started as a moneymaking ruse dreamed up by clever restaurateurs, leading diners to think they offer an inexpensive menu!  You may well see dishes listed for anything from £4 up to £12, but do you know how much you are going to get on each plate? Often not, and this leaves the restauranteur free to adjust the amount of food according to ingredients costs from one week to the next – clever!  Then it comes to ordering and of course what often happens is that hungry diners over order and ultimately spend more per head than they would if ordering a traditional plated meal, yet leave with the perception that they have got better value for money because they have tried more dishes!

Bring this concept into a wedding scenario and it can get even more complicated……

You might ideally want to put down platters intended for between 6 and 12 guests, but you must ensure that everyone is well fed – what about the slower diner, those who are too polite to ask for more or the generous eaters?  Who eats the last morsel of each dish?  Some diners might take seconds whilst others are still eating, or worse still waiting for a specific dish to get passed to them, others might wait until the dish has gone cold only to see it taken away uneaten. There can be a quagmire of sharing etiquette for your guests to wade through.

We can easily solve the problem of ensuring there is enough food by sending out more than we would if you were setting down a plated meal in front of each guest, but this has to be charged for accordingly, pushing up the cost to our client.  The next challenge is physically fitting the food onto the table – there can be lots of dishes! They have to be lightweight and small enough for guests to be able to pass around easily (essential when sitting at round tables), yet large enough to look the part. They need to fit onto the table itself – which can become a fiendish challenge in it’s own right when you already have flowers as a centrepiece, four glasses per person and in all likelihood, wedding favours, menus, namecards and more to negotiate…… and that brings us to the risk of spillages……. happy, chatty (dare we say tipsy?) people, wearing their wedding finest and passing platters around the table, past glasses of red and white wine….. does it make any waiting person worth their salt wince?  Yes, just a little bit!! It is awful to see red wine spilled across a pristine table (or worse a guest) and there is very little that can be done at that point, other than some mopping up. Of course it might not happen, but based on the law of averages, the more platters you have, the higher the risk!

Probably the biggest issue of all with sharing platters is the impact it has on the total cost.  Unlike a restauranteur who might want to push their income up, we are often working hard to keep the total costs of a day down in order to meet our clients budget.  Sharing platters mean more hire equipment, more food per person, and possibly more staff to get the platters out to the tables so there is no way to avoid additional costs.

This might all sound rather negative,  but actually we love a sharing platter just as much as the next person, it is purely that we always want our clients to be able to make informed decisions. Fashions will come and go, but what really matters is to have the day you want and that means bringing together your vision for service, style, food and cost to make it work for you.  We are here to offer help and advice and can often find a way to incorporate the best or most important elements of a day whilst circumnavigating the problems!  You’d be amazed what time and experience has taught us – and that is what makes having an event professional on your side worth it’s weight in gold!