A tasty prime rib, beef tenderloin and roasted turkey can pack a pretty impressive wow factor on their own. Display any one of these “classic” meats on a carving station buffet and watch the customers line up to receive a mouthwatering cut of hand-carved deliciousness. But relegating carving station buffets into the box of convention doesn’t always do them justice. That’s why, in addition to using carving station buffets for traditional menu items like a holiday bird or roast, restaurants, caterers and universities (to name a few) are beginning to leverage carving stations for a whole new range of buffet offerings. We’ll dive into a few of these top trends, but first, let’s discuss what’s so darn appealing about carving station buffets to start with.
Why have a carving station buffet?
Combine a little showmanship, some variety and plenty of delicious food and it’s no wonder food stations of all kinds are in vogue these days. That said, food stations with a carving component are more popular than ever — and for all the right reasons. It’s no secret that people like a little entertainment with their meal or special event (dinner and a show, anyone?). Watching a chef’s knife skills and chatting with a pro about the different cuts of meat or menu items provides an interactive element to a meal like no other — it’s truly dinner (or breakfast and lunch) theater at its best.
But entertainment isn’t the only reason carving station buffets are a sought-out meal experience. They also elevate food up a notch and give customers that feeling of being pampered and “treated” to a really special experience (read: happy customers). Plus, carving stations give guests the ability to specify just how large or small of a serving they want and where their cut of meat or non-meat offering is sliced from.
In addition to how the carving station experience makes patrons feel, this type of buffet also has some practical appeal. On a carving station, the cuts stay in their original form, allowing the quality, moisture content and texture of the food to remain uncompromised and perfectly cooked. It’s a freshness that can be seen and tasted by the customer. Also, since food quality is preserved, there’s often less waste than cutting an entire tenderloin or turkey into portions and placing it in a hotel pan out on the service line.
What’s trending with buffet carving stations today?
Now that we’ve discussed why carving station buffets are foodservice gold, let’s take a look at a few top carving station buffet trends that are pushing this foodservice offering outside the bounds of tradition.
Less-traditional “carving” meats
The classics are classic for a reason; they’re absolutely irreplaceable. But there’s also room for some new kids on the block (yup, we know what we just did there). While prime rib has its place, there’s a myriad of meats that are just as appealing as the traditional carving meats of old. As a result, establishments are incorporating new options into their offerings to give carving station buffets a uniqueness their customers love. The options are seemingly endless. Some establishments are straying just a touch outside of tradition with a tempting rosemary and garlic pork roast or mint-crusted leg of lamb. Or others are diving a little deeper and carving up bright pink Coho salmon and pairing it with condiments like a zesty lemon and capers sauce. But they don’t just stop at salmon; there's also swordfish, grouper or ahi tuna that are taking this trend to the next level.
Gourmet deli delights
The humble (yet delicious) sandwich might at first seem like it can’t stand within the ranks of a carving station buffet, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Freshly shaved hickory smoked pork shoulder on a ciabatta roll with maple syrup BBQ sauce and a little coleslaw on top — now that’s a bit of heaven between bread. Or there’s nothing quite like the flavor of grilled, marinated steak that’s hand carved for a mouthwatering banh mi sandwich topped with a little spicy mayo and pickled veggies. Just as delicious, some carving station buffets offer Philly beef served with au jus or garlic aioli sauce. In addition, there’s shaved corned beef for a tasty Reuben, or sweet honey-glazed ham for the perfect hot ham and Swiss on sourdough. You name it, an elevated sandwich carving buffet with all the appropriate fixings is a trend that’s sure to continually rise in popularity.
Plant-based carving stations
In a healthy and environmentally conscious world, more and more people are choosing plant-based eating. Now, that’s not to say everyone who eats this way is a strict plant-only-eater. In fact, the terms reducetarian and flexitarian describe groups of people who mostly eat a produce-filled diet but indulge in a meal with meat or dairy from time to time.
With all those veggie lovers around, it would make sense that entire carving station buffets are dedicated to all things plant-based. And these stations are anything but boring. The breathtaking colors and shapes of roasted and grilled eggplant, squash, rutabaga, cauliflower, zucchini and mushrooms are a sight to behold. But by adding an assortment of delicious seasonings or fillings like sauteed kale and onions, bean pâté, seasoned quinoa or corn salsa you’re sure to have a clear buffet winner — with everyone wanting seconds.
Themed carving stations
Theme-based carving station buffets can really boost the fun factor of a buffet. Some operations offer a show-stopping brisket encrusted with a flavorful Mexican dry rub, flour tortillas and some tasty condiments. That combo brings to life an inspiring barbacoa burrito buffet that’s full of all the exceptional flavor that customers crave. Additionally, a Hawaiian-themed carving station buffet featuring pineapple braised pork roast, mashed poi, and ahi tuna poke bowls is no short of amazing (and a definite crowd-pleaser). But that’s not all; a tempting sesame, ginger glazed duck perfectly sliced for each customer and paired with an assortment of sauteed vegetables, rice and udon noodles provides a mouthwatering stir-fry station. Get the creative juices flowing because there’s truly no end to all this trend can bring to the table.
What equipment is necessary?
Carving stations that spotlight beautifully prepared proteins and vegetables need the right equipment to make them successful. It would be a buffet safety concern (and majorly disappointing) to slice roasted veggies or cuts of meat without any temperature regulation. In addition, chefs need a dedicated space to carve their masterpieces. And it’s always important to keep in mind the aesthetics of each operation or event.
Thankfully, there are different types of carving stations for any unique situation. Choose from mounted or freestanding carving stations that provide an overhead heating source to maintain food at optimal temperatures. Additionally, units like Hatco’s Round Decorative Carving Station add a thermostatically controlled carving base to supplement the overhead heat and support longer hold times. But no matter which unit you choose, be sure that it is a quality one that will last for many carving station services to come.
Ready to carve up success?
Keeping up with industry trends is essential for your operation’s success. Is the carving station buffet trend something you’re interested in? If so, Hatco offers a range of carving stations with an attractive design, versatile color selection, impressive functionality and industry-leading quality. When it comes to carving station buffets, Hatco is the name of the game. Ready to explore all Hatco has to carve up? Check out our wide range of carving stations today.