I've had a lot of questions regarding stations lately.
How many should I have? Are they more or less expensive than other catering options? How much space do I need? More or less than a buffet?
These are all important questions.
Stations are a lot of fun as your guests can mill around and continue to visit with a lot of people as they enjoy their meal. Caterers are very creative with stations and they can provide everything from a few appetizers to a full dinner. Here is San Francisco and in other cities, they take their food themes from areas in the city; for example Fisherman's Wharf might include be a raw bar with Oysters, then also have Jumbo Prawns, Crab Clawes and Mussels served with cocktail sauce, lemon wedges and sliced sourdough bread. South of Market might offer dishes with a Spanish or Mexican flair such as chips with salsa, Paella, or a build your own taco bar. A Wine country station might include a wide variety of local cheeses with nuts , mustards and assorted artisan breads.
The choices are vast. Stations do take a bit of room; if you have a large area in a ballroom or a party or reception in a historic building with your event occurring in several spaces,consider placing your stations in various areas. This keeps your guests moving and doesn't create a bottleneck in any one area. Have several bars in this cases, as well. People always congregate at the bar!
Stations are priced per person and they are usually portioned out as "small plates". Be sure to order enough variety that your guests are fed adequately. This will vary with your event; but you don't want to run out of food before your guests are satisfied! Consult with your caterer but just know that it will take more than you think. Stations are often open for 1 1/2- 2 hours but that doesn't mean that they will serve this entire time if your allotment of food runs out! Make this point very clearly with your caterer!
Station portions are a bit larger than appetizer portions but they are small plates. Order at least4- 5 portions per person if this is going to be dinner.
Again, consult with your individual caterer.
Stations are great fun but from the voice of experience, it takes more food than you might think!