Restaurants most frequently use one of four different types of dinner service---French, Russian, American or buffet. The differences lie in whether the chefs prepare the food in the kitchen for individual service in the dining room, or prepare several servings at one time. In each service, food is offered to guests a little differently, as well.
In the French style of service, the chef prepares several servings of food in the kitchen and sends it out to the guests on large platters. The waiter offers the platter to each guest, who takes as much from it as he wishes. The waiter then moves on to the next guest. Throughout the course, the waiter continues to offer more food to each guest, until the guest indicates he doesn't want any more by placing his silverware atop his plate. According to Tip 20!, the Lausanne Hotel School was the champion of this style of service.
Russian service emerged as restaurateurs began to realise that French service didn't work well in their establishments, because it took longer to serve a table of guests and also encouraged the guests to eat more, both of which factors reduced restaurant profits. Russian service differs from French service in that the waiter brings several servings of food out to the guests on platters, but then serves each one in turn one time, holding the platter in one hand and using the other to serve. The guests don't decide how much food they're served at one time, nor does the waiter automatically offer second helpings.
American service came into being in the 1970s, when chefs began to prepare individual plates of food in the kitchen and send them out to the guests. American service helped improve restaurants' ability to control portion size, one of the major factors affecting the profitability of any restaurant.
For large parties, or for special events like holiday brunches or dinners, restaurateurs may decide to serve dinner buffet-style. This involves the chefs preparing large amounts of many different types of foods and displaying them all at one time on large tables. The guests take plates from the table and serve themselves with the foods of their choice.
Buffet Service Patterns
Traditional buffet service patterns may follow the food zone method, in which similar food items occupy dedicated areas along a much larger buffet table, or the food scatter station method, in which similar foods are offered at entirely separate tables or islands.
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