O level Notes : Food Technology Design - Preparation, Cooking And Presentation Of Different Food And Beverages - Meal service styles

Meal service simply refers to a service or process of giving or putting food on the table for guests to eat.

The following are examples of types of meal service:

  • Plate service.
  • Buffet. Cafeteria service or Combo buffet.
  • Family-style (English) service.
  • Classical French service.
  • Russian service.
  • Cocktail service.

Plate service

The food is completely prepared, portioned, plated and garnished in the kitchen and served from the left side. Beverages are served from the right side. Used glasses and dishes are removed from the right.This is the most functional common, economical, controllable and efficient type of service.

However, if foods are plated too early, they could run together or discolour or otherwise lose culinary quality. It also limits guests to what they can eat. Guests may also seat and wait for too long while the course is being served. This service also requires more staff to serve everyone in a timely manner.


All food is attractively displayed on a table for the customers to see. Customers go to the buffet and choose what they want to eat. Guests usually move along the buffet and serve themselves. When their plates are filled they take them to the dining table to eat. Waiters usually provide beverage service at tableside. A very elegant buffet will have waiters carry guests' plates to the table for them.

This is one of the easiest ways of entertaining a large number of people at a time. The following are advantages and disadvantage of the buffet type of meal service:

  • There is no seating arrangement except for more formal occasions.
  • Food can be less expensive than food served at a formal dinner.
  • Food can usually be prepared well in advance.
  • All the cutlery, chinaware and glasses can be arranged well in advance.
  • It eliminates serving problems.
  • However, portion control may be a problem.

Cafeteria service/Combo buffet

It is a variation of the traditional buffet service. This service is almost like a buffet. Guests stand in line, but do not help themselves. They are served by chefs or servers from behind the buffet line. Sometimes the inexpensive items such as salads will be self-service and the expensive meat items will be served by an attendant.

Portion size control is one of its strength.   This type of service gives guests an opportunity to get up and mingle.

However, the caterer may not know what will be eaten most, so he needs to prepare enough of everything which may not be cost effective.

Classical French service

The most elaborate and elegant style of service. Some foods are fully or partially prepared on the table side in full view of the customer.  This service is more time consuming.

Russian service

This is an elegant and formal service that is used internationally and is an ideal foe banquets where everyone is eating the same meal. Each course is completely prepared, cooked portioned and garnished in the kitchen and then placed in a service plate or platters.This type of food service allows portion control and it is formal. It however requires skilled manpower.

Cocktail service

It is also known as fork buffet. It is a separate reception before the wedding celebration or it replaces the sit-down dinner. Light foods are served in a displayed buffet style on a table. Guests usually stand and serve themselves. They normally do not sit down to eat. Finger or fork foods are served at a cocktail. Cocktail service is casual, and it allows guests to socialize. Many guests can be served easily.