Definitive answer to the age old question, buffet or plated?

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TheBeachHouse's picture
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06/24/2013

We are plating because, you know, covid.     We don’t like it.    Everyone wants something special.    With a buffet, they can just grab a yogurt if they don’t like the offerings.    Now, they are asking for the world.   Plus, I get insulted that they don’t want to try my very awesome spinach feta quiche!    

We give them a ‘menu’    Choice is time, what kind of juice and chefs choice or not.   If not, a choice of yogurt, toast, cereal, oatmeal or eggs.     They all want the plain eggs!     

I don’t know how you do it.   But I’m not liking the plated breakfast.    

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It's been a while since I've posted here, but I wanted to share how we served plated breakfast before the pandemic in case there are ideas here you can take to make your own smiley.  I mention because there are some things that we did that were social distancing without even knowing it! 

We are in the tropics in a small village and are low/moderately priced 70-100 per night and have 8 rooms.

Each of our rooms has a private outdoor balcony, and we have a table and chairs on each balcony.  We served a chef's choice breakfast, have the menu online (with the warning it may change), in the reception area, and in the guide book of each room.  We served breakfast between 8-10, and asked on check in what time they would like breakfast brought by and what they would like to drink (coffee/tea/water or juice). And if coffee, if they take it with milk. We also pointed out the menu, and let people know that while it is chef's choice, we are always glad to serve more of one thing and less of another of what we are already serving, for example no eggs and more fruit, just to let us know the day prior. At this point people usually either say, looks good to me, or something like, wait, I don't eat bread.  

We also have a little cheat sheet for each day's breakfast service with  the rooms listed and spaces for their beverage printed 8 per page and cut out.  So, on each sheet, all the rooms are listed with a check spot for breakfast time, what type of beverage and a little line for notes (like 1 gluten free breakfast, 1 normal).  If there are more than two rooms (in other words, more than I can remember) we would  fill it out the night prior and stick it to the refrigerator in our kitchen for breakfast service  We also let people know that we assume they want to eat at the same time and have the same drink each day, unless they let us know differently.

   We alternate days between more traditional breakfasts in our country and more common breakfasts in other areas of the world where our guests come from for variety, but always include fruit and always have toast and eggs on hand. 

In the morning, we set each room's table with a table cloth (used one per room and washed between each breakfast), napkins (also washed and folded), silverware, salt/pepper and jam (we buy little individual jars and fill with jam the night prior).  These are only used for that table for that service. Right before breakfast, we put a pat or two of butter out as well if we are serving toast and a little tiny pitcher of milk if they take milk with their coffee. Likewise, these are only used for that table for that service. Since our specialty is coffee, most people order coffee.  We have 1L carafes that keep coffee warm. We fill and put out on the table up to a half an hour before breakfast. Likewise only used for that room before being washed.  We calculate 1.5 coffee mugs full per person (they also have an inroom coffee maker) for our initial serving.  Tea, Water and Juice go out 5 minutes before serving food, and are individually served in mugs or glasses. We serve the food on the balcony of the room, then, knock on the door to let them know their breakfast is ready. As they have a coffee maker in their room, we also have sugars there as well, so don't bring any out with breakfast, unless people let us know they are out.

After a half hour, we go by each room to clean up.  If they are still sitting out, we ask if they would like more coffee.  Tableclothes and napkins are washed.  We have double the number of table clothes as rooms and about 2.5 times the number of napkins and max guests.  We also have placemats we would use in an emergency in case we ran out of tablecloths.

We've been in business for 8 years.  Two years ago, we moved to a set chef's choice breakfast that we published ahead of time.  It really has helped me with shopping and planning.  With all this said, we are going to try something new as we ramp up Smiling as we may only have one room (if we are lucky) per night.

Right now, it is low season where we are, and hotels are still closed.  As we ramp up, we are going to try self-checkins and am thinking having a 3 item menu that guests chose from the night prior.  I'd love to hear more ideas about this from anyone who has tried them Smiling

PhineasSwann's picture
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09/25/2012

We plate and have one entree each day. We always give guests the choice of eggs to order if our entree of the day isn't to their liking. 

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TheBeachHouse's picture
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06/24/2013

This is funny.   When chefs choice was spinach and feta quiche, half the people asked for something else.   When the chefs choice was cinnamon pancakes, everyone said yes!    

For me, I’d rather have the quiche, and would be disappointed with pancakes.   I guess everyone is not me.  

gillumhouse's picture
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05/22/2008

I DO ask if they like spinach before making my Spinach Swiss Casserole. It is the only entree I ask about.

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09/26/2011

I plate.  Always have.  Chef's choice.  I do ask for every booking in advance about food allergies, restrictions or preferences.  Then I honor them.  They don't know what breakfast will be until its set before them.  I can't remember anyone in many years expressing disappointment. I alternate between sweet and savory for multi day stays.  Over time, breakfast and dinner reviews have become a motivator for bookings. 

We are in the middle of nowhere, so not a lot of alternatives close by.   

Edited to add:

Always fruit salad, juice coffee or tea, then followed by savory: herb cream cheese scrambled eggs or omelettes, side of bacon or sausage, homefries and homemade bread toast.  Sweet might be lemon ricotta pancakes, french toast.  Polenta can be savory or sweet and is my go-to for vegans.  For gluten free, just leave off the toast or make gluten free cornbread.  

Edited again to add:  No major changes in COVID.  Only two inside rooms, so easy to stagger breakfast times.  I wear a mask while serving (now required in my state). Frankly, I hold my breath while setting plates on tables then step away the six feet for conversation if they want that. 

 

 

seashanty's picture
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06/02/2008

Buffet style was breaking my bank, anyway. People would help themselves, leave a lot on their plate (some kind of greedy syndrome there) and then pack up more 'for later'. Gleefully telling me they wouldn't have to buy lunch. Excuse me? So I'm buying your lunch? What kind of thinking is that? I saved a lot of money switching to plated. 

I'd much prefer to sit outside if the weather is fine. Except for yellow jackets and mosquitos. If there are either of those two bugs buzzing, I'll sit inside in any old corner by myself. No problem. 

Arks's picture
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05/22/2010

Can you just have what you'd have on the usual buffet, let them tell you what they want from the buffet, and you plate it from the buffet and carry it to them?

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All saints can do miracles, but few of them can keep hotel. ~ Mark Twain

 

Morticia's picture
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05/22/2008

We haven’t had any guests yet, so still wondering what it’s going to look like when we do. 
 

i totally get your frustration, tho. I’ve been listening to some version of ‘I don’t like that’ for years. I imagine it may be worse now because everyone is so much more stressed than before and no one is retaining anything they read about what breakfast is going to be.

 We’re also not supposed to have anything buffet-style. The way my calendar looks at the moment, it won’t be a problem as we do not have more than one room scheduled at a time.

 And, even if we do get more guests, we’re not taking more than four rooms at a time given the new cleaning rules.

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What a long, strange trip it’s been.

 

gillumhouse's picture
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05/22/2008

I serve"family-style". Take it or leave it. Choices - IF made in advance - are for the meat with breakfast and country of coffee.

Try serving the Cook's Choice in a "For 2" serving dish and same for side offerings - no menu choices. I have done this for years (start # 25 in July) with no complaints. It is when they CAN order this, that , and the other that you get run ragged. Small pitcher of juice per table, etc. It may not be what you are used to doing but aren't we being told - it is a new normal? Give yourself a break!

TheBeachHouse's picture
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06/24/2013

We can’t do a pitcher for the table - no shared service.    Only individually wrapped items or plated one at a time.    The pitcher would be a ‘touch point’ between unrelated guests, so it’s not permitted. 

 

The family style for two would be ok under the rules because the two are in one group.    But even then, one wants this and the other wants that.

 

with the buffet, if I saw someone had themFruit Loops, I’d laugh and think, ‘c’mon, live a little.’  But now, if they want Fruit Loops, I’m serving it, with the milk on the side in a lovely presentation....  

gillumhouse's picture
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05/22/2008

I meant a small pitcher of juice on EACH table. I know you cannot have common-touch pitchers, etc. That would at leash eliminate the running out with juice for you.

TheBeachHouse's picture
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gillumhouse wrote:

I meant a small pitcher of juice on EACH table. I know you cannot have common-touch pitchers, etc. That would at leash eliminate the running out with juice for you.

gotcha.    Makes sense.    We tried setting the tables but found that people sat at different spots depending on the weather and where others are.   So now we are ‘open seating.’   Some people will take their plate and sit in the adderondack chairs on the lawn!   

Morticia's picture
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05/22/2008

Can’t preset the tables. Nothing. Not sugar, not s&p, not silverware.

I bought cute, small serving trays. Will seat guests and then tell them I’m off to wash my hands and bring their tray of silverware and condiments.

 The pace of everything will be super slow.

 If guests opt to eat outside we’ve added tables to the patio and lawn. I have big serving trays to bring everything outside to them.

Froot Loops — most people don’t buy that for home so it is a treat for them! 

However, I have not served coffee or juice for years, that’s been self serve. That will take getting used to! Again, we’re only have one room at a time for the foreseeable future so I don’t need to relearn that right now.

Arks's picture
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TheBeachHouse wrote:

Some people will take their plate and sit in the adderondack chairs on the lawn!   

I would. Outdoors is MUCH safer than indoors. Much. Plus it's nice out there!

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