This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
If you have the roast-cook to plain-roast 40 chickens for part of the supper of the 150 or 160 persons, who will be seated at the 20 eight-seat tables before mentioned, and when the chickens have become cold have some careful but ordinary helper to cut them up and place the pieces into 20 dishes, one for each table; it is a plain and simple matter of small expense. But if, after the chickens become cold, the meat must be pulled from the bones and freed from skin, then be cut, not hashed, and added to a similar lot of celery, and there must be made by a skillful cook from two to four quarts of mavonaise dressing for it, consuming, before the salad is complete, about a gallon of fine olive oil, the chicken begins to be expensive. If then it is to be kept in a pan or large platter and dished out by spoonfuls it is still not very dear nor at all elegant. But if on the contrary, it is to be shaped in a suitable mould, turned out into 20 dishes, one for each table and all alike, and then spread over with the dressing skillfully, decorated with perhaps a dollars worth of capers, a similar value in olives, and as many quartered eggs, the 40 original roast chickens have become "elegant," but also expensive, and that not so much owing to the materials as to the tediousnesss of all the operations, occupying for several hours one or two skilled hands and some assistants, and the little salad is but one-eighth or, likelier, one-twelfth of all the dishes to be made.
The 40 plates of sandwiches which are part of the sample supper previously detailed - two plates to a table, the kinds being different, may be equally plain, mere sliced bread and meat, or may consume hours in their preparation, as when made of grated tongue, minced ham, sardines, anchovy butter and veal or chopped pickled oysters and butter, and the various combinations, the bread having to be very thin and cut to symmetrical shapes all of one size and appearance. The most tedious are rolled sandwiches, each one having to be tied with a ribbon and the more troublesome when the bread is of a contrary nature, too brittle to roll easily.
To mould the charlottes and jellies, whether in 160 individual moulds or whether in 40 moulds - two for each table - is another lime-consuming operation and requires room in the refrigerators to set them, which is often very hard to find; whereas if only to be "spooned out" they may be kept easily in a tub of ice-water and served cheaply. To mould ice creams and turn them out successfully requires skilled workmen instead of helpers from first to last, and doubles or more than doubles their cost.
These examples should serve to explain why the very same eatables can either be served at a profit for one dollar or served at a less profit for two dollars. I have no inclination to pursue the subject to the point of tediousness, but it remains to say that a cheap supper must be attended by but half as many waiters or even one third as many. All of the dishes, both meats and sweets, can be put upon the tables at once and the guests left almost entirely to help themselves, and instead of making two courses or " services " of it all the few waiters have to do is to begin to bring in the plain saucers of ice cream as soon as they can in order to get all served without any having to wait For it is to be remembered always that a ball supper is only an incident of the ball, an interval in the dancing, which many people wish to make short and not lose much time over; it is not the principal object in the meeting and haste in serving it is always excusable.