Types of service

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Types of service

Cafeteria Service

  • Customers go past a display of food and select the items they want. Some of the meal items (usually hot food such as main courses) may be served by staff from behind the counter.
  • Payment is made before the customer eats. It is easy for staff to display the menu and stock the displays.
  • Cutlery and condiments are placed after the tills to keep a steady flow.
  • The dining area is regularly cleaned.
  • Some areas of the dining room may be kept for customers eating meals rather snacks at busy times.
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Free Flow

Free Flow

This is similar to the cafeteria system except customers go straight to the food or drink counter they want. It avoids unnecessary queuing but isn't good for people who like a full range of items.

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This is like the Free-Flow System but has separate trays, tills cutlery and condiment areas. It isn't very good for people who like a full range of items.

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  • In fast food outlets the customer orders and collects the meal from one of a number of service points along the service customer.
  • At each service points there is a cashier who takes the customer's order,receives the payment and collects the orders, assembling them on a tray to be eaten in the restaurant or in a bag to takeaway.
  • The food offered is usually shown in photographs above the counter wit h the prices aswell. The complex tills record all the orders, time, method of payment and a complete breakdown of sales and other information to the head office. Speed is essential.
  •  Fast- Food outlets are very expensive to set up and need expensive equipment (fryers, griddles). It will NOT survive unless it has a high turnover of customers.
  • Many takeaway restaurants e.g Fish and Chip shops and Chinese Take-aways, use a similar method but only have one service point behind the counter.
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Vended Service

  • Vender Machines are used widely in buildings such as Hospitals, Hotels and Factories, where food and drinks are needed throughout the day and night.
  • Vending Machines "sell" a wide range of products such as sweets, crisps, drinks and even whole plated meals.
  • Some are "coin operated" some are operated by special discs or cards issued to staff, some are "free vende" e.g operated by the touch of a button.
  • They offer ideal portion control and good hygiene standards since they are always packaged.
  • They need regular stocking and careful maintenance.
  • High turnover is important. They are often placed next to microwaves so that customers can buy "chilled food" and re-heat before eating i.e. Buy-Reheat- Serve-Eat.
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Seated Counter Service

  • Customers are seated at the counter, usually on stools, and are served by staff behind the counter. Often used in Railway Stations and Airport Terminals.
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Buffet Service

  • Customers select their meal items from an open counter or buffet table. The customers help themselves to everything, sometimes the staff serve some or all of the items. Serving staff often serve the meat items as these are the most expensive and need to be controlled and leave the Customers to help themselves to the salads etc.
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Carvery Service

  • Starters, Drinks and Sweets are served by the serving staff.
  • Customers collect their own main  course items from the carving table where joints of meat are displayed and kept hot by special lamps and hot plates.
  • Often, a chef from the kitchen carves the joints, but sometimes a member of staff does the carving.
  • Customers help themselves to Vegetables, gravy, sauces and other accompaniments like Yorkshire Puddings.
  • They are extremely popular for Sunday Lunch.
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Waiter/Waitress Service

  • This is used when a more personal service is needed.
  • It is more expensive than Counter Service, because of the number of staff involved.
  • For large functions a waiter/waitress can serve more people than usual restaurant service.
  • When tables are laid up banquet style, one waiter/waitress serve the people on both sides of an "aisle" i.e. serve the left-hand side of one table and the right-hand side of the other table.

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Transported Meal Systems

  • This is the most well known type of transported meals is airline food. This is used most commonly on Long-Haul flights where passengers choose hot food from a limited menu.How airline food systems work:
  • Airline representatives choose from a selection of prepared foods.
  • Food is prepared in the kitchens away from airports.
  • Meals for special diets are ordered and prepared in the correct quantities by the kitchen.
  • Meals are plated, covered and blast-chilled.
  • Meals are placed on trolleys covered with dry ice pellets to keep food fresh.
  • The trolleys are delivered to the correct flights and stored in the Kitchen Area of the plane.
  • Before service, the meals are re-heated and placed in heated trolleys. 
  • Passengers then get a limited choice of meals on the plane.


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Advantages and Disadvantages of Transported meal s


  • Children and special diets are catered for
  • The airline orders the right amount of dishes so there will be less waste.
  • First- and Business-class passengers can pre-order their meals in advance.


  • There are no "second helpings"
  • The choice is limited to two dishes
  • Passengers don't always like the choices available.
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The Gueridon System

This style of service is used with a la carte or table d'hote menus. The food is carved or "finished" at the table or trolley next to the Customer's table. A spirit lamp is used to finish cooking portions of poultry, meat or fish. Some dishes are completed this way, with a Flambe technique or sauce. Two popular dishes are Steak Diane and Crepes Suzette. This form of service requires highly skilled staff who can cook and present food attractively and can work confidently with a little bit of "showmanship".

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