It might have started in the 50s and 60s with tableside service.

Towards the end of the 90s and the beginning of the 21st century, people looked back on tableside service and laughed. But from the 2000s on, caterers wanted to bring it back to add to the experience and make food offerings more immersive than the standard buffet.

But what exactly does this look like when incorporated with more standard catering offerings?

An action station is a food station that requires some action or input by the guest. A carving station, for example, allows guests to guide the chef as to how to cut their pieces of meat.

Technically, you can set up an action station for virtually any meal you want. The goal is to create an interactive experience with guests — while keeping the line moving.

Is it a Buffet?

An action station aims for the “show.”

While a buffet generally involves food put out for the masses to self-serve, an action station allows for a more specific order, paired with a bit of a show, demonstrating the food preparation.

For example, in a ramen action station, you get to see how the broth comes together to make your dish.

The result is a great food experience that appeals to all your senses — not just your eyes and taste buds.

What Makes for an Effective and Engaging Action Station?

For a fully interactive experience, a station has to be well put together conceptually in terms of quality, appearance, and practicality. You want to fully utilize the staff and ensure guests don’t spend their time waiting in line.

We do a lot of training to match the chefs with the stations for which they are best suited. For instance, some are more extraverted and will comfortably discuss what they are doing with the crowd while others are more comfortable working behind the scenes.

When it comes to picking an action station for your event, it has to be interesting enough to draw people in, so creativity plays a significant role. Truly, what you’re serving is almost secondary to the engagement. But at Catering by Michaels, we’re obsessed with creating an experience that’s as exciting as it is tasty!

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