Setting Up a Food Buffet

by Tanya Brame

Photo Credit: Pinterest.com

Photo Credit: Pinterest.com


With the holidays approaching, having a dinner party is a great way to touch base with family/friends near and far. It will take some planning ahead, but it can be done with ease following the simple guidelines listed below.

  • To avoid major pile-ups and traffic jams, plan your buffet by gathering all serving dishes and arranging them on the table in the order of the dishes you would like to serve.
  • Place sticky notes in the serving platters with the name of the dish. This will help you remember which food goes in what dish.
  • Have a starting and ending point for your buffet. Try a two- sided buffet so that it can be utilized from both sides.
  • Place plates at the beginning of the buffet in short stacks. If using disposable plates, choose heavier ones so that the food stays on the plate without spilling.
Photo Credit: Pinterest.com

Photo Credit: Pinterest.com

Next on the buffet table is the food.

  • Line food up according to temperature.
  • First stop being the cold items, followed by the hot.
  • This will guarantee that the hot food won’t get cold while the guests are walking to their seats.
  • Provide a balanced meal with a salad, protein, vegetable, and starch (ex. bread or pasta).
  • Plan your menu with guests in mind. Choose foods that are easy to serve and eat while sitting or standing.
  • Serve dishes that your guests recognize.
  • If you decide to serve a dish that is unfamiliar to your guests, use name cards to help them identify the food item.
  • You may want to consider including a short list of ingredients for those with food allergies.
  • Make sure all dishes have a coordinating serving utensil. 
Photo Credit: pinterest.com

Photo Credit: pinterest.com

Cutlery should be placed at the end of the buffet right after the food services. There is nothing more annoying than having to balance cutlery and napkins while trying to dish food onto your plate.

Make utensils “grab and go” by wrapping each set in the napkin and tying with a decorative ribbon or napkin ring. Provide utensils that guest will need to use. If a spoon is not needed don’t provide one. 

Photo Credit: pinterest.com

Photo Credit: pinterest.com

Drinks should be put at the very end of the table after the cutlery and, if at all possible, on a separate table.

  • Serve drinks that are already pre-poured or in disposable can/bottles. This will eliminate chances for spillage.
  • If you are going to serve drinks out of a large container, place something underneath the spout to catch any drips that may fall.

As you can see, a buffet is a good ways to serve food for any size gathering. Arrange the buffet so that it makes sense: plates, food items, cutlery and beverages. The result will be a quick flowing buffet line, happy guest, and the ability to spend valuable time with family/friends without being tied down to the kitchen or serving food all night.

Of course, if you don’t think this is something you want to do on your own, professional event planners and caterers are available to assist. 

Posted on November 23, 2015 and filed under Event Design.