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CATERING to the needs of today's increasingly interactive events, leading foodservice manufacturers are making equipment that transforms a buffet into a magnet for minglers. Cool, creative and decidedly user-friendly, the best of these pieces are true station standouts.


Sure, cupcakes are still going strong. But that doesn't mean that Chico, Calif.-based Boss Manufacturing's conversation-worthy Cupcake Tree can only be used for displaying the diminutive desserts.

With its commanding 26-inch height and multiple tiers, the Cupcake Tree is winning over caterers who “love this stand for fruit displays, dessert buffets, hors d'oeuvre and any other food presentation,” says company co-owner Julie Boss. She notes that the tree, which features five round or square metal plates in sizes ranging from 6 to 22 inches, offers “versatility, allowing caterers to use the plates in any configuration they choose.”

In response to demand for the Cupcake Tree, Boss has begun offering “a more contemporary version along with a very tailored banded style” to complement a variety of design schemes, she says. Also new is a smaller three-tier tree, which works as a stand-alone for smaller events or as a companion piece to the larger stand.

What really makes the company's stands stand out, Boss says, is their craftsmanship. “Our products are engineered by professionals, welded by U.S.-certified welders and carefully prepared for the extremely durable powder coating process,” she says. They're also individually inspected before packaging and shipping, she adds. “This is extremely important to us, being a family-owned and-operated business.”


Nothing draws guests to a station like an eye-catching food display. And nothing showcases food as well as height. Columbus, Ohio-based Lancaster Colony Commercial Products offers products that give a lift to flat food displays.

Lancaster Colony cites its cool polyethylene columns as a hot seller with foodservice clients who want to raise the profile of their presentations. Available in Ionic, Corinthian and octagonal designs, the columns are “excellent replicas of classic ancient Greek architecture,” says national accounts manager Rebecca Mackert. The columns range in height from 24 to 96 inches; their lightweight construction “allows anyone the ability to move and position them with little to no stress in lifting,” she adds.

Lancaster Colony's columns have been created with customization in mind. Because the columns come in plain white polyethylene, “Customers can paint these columns with acrylic paint, allowing for creative design effects,” Mackert notes. In the hands of a clever caterer, the columns can be matched to the bowls, platters and other items they display. And their good looks are sturdy: Their polyethylene body means the columns are easy to pack, hard to damage, inexpensive to ship and simple to clean, Mackert adds.


For caterers seeking an updated take on the traditional long-table layout, there is Naperville, Ill.-based Spring USA's ultra-hip Flix system.

Flix is available in three models, each designed for different types of food displays. Flix Basic allows a combination of three individual hot or cold “piers” — slim, modular extensions that hold serving vessels and plates. There's also a cold-table version as well as the Flix Mini, which comes in the form of a tiered stand.

What makes Flix a hit with clients is the product line's “flexibility, simplicity and efficiency,” says company spokes-person Jennifer Hees. “One person can put together and lay out a complete buffet for 100 people within a short period of time.” Because the piers can be accessed from multiple sides simultaneously, Flix ensures a space saving of 35 percent to 65 percent, according to Hees. And the whole thing fits into a mobile case for easy carrying, she adds.

But the biggest boon to caterers? With Flix, “Tablecloths, skirting and decoration are eliminated. They don't need to be bought, washed, transported or stored,” Hees says. “The focus is on the food.”


Boss Manufacturing, 800/832-4941; Lancaster Colony Commercial Products, 800/292-7260; Spring USA, 800/535-8974

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