How to Set Up a Buffet

A buffet-style meal allows the guests to line up and choose which foods they would like to eat as they move from one end of the serving station to the other. The following are the basic guidelines that will help you set up a buffet.


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    Arrange the room for the best flow. Beginning with clearing the room you plan to use for your event, place the serving table in the middle of the room. This allows guests access to the food from both sides of the buffet table and will keep the line moving quickly.
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    Plan a separate table for beverages. By situating the beverage table far away from the food table, you give your guests a chance to choose their food and put the plate down before pouring a drink, minimizing spills. This is another way to ensure that your guests can maneuver the lines with ease.
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    Begin planning your buffet table the night before the event. So you are not making last minute decisions and preparations, gather all of your serving dishes together the night before the event and place them on the table with sticky notes attached reminding you which food goes in which dish.
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    Place the plates at the start of the line. If you are planning an event with a lot of people, it is a good idea to set up a buffet with 2 or 3 stacks of plates with about 10 plates in each stack. You don't want to pile the plates too high so that they won't be in danger of tipping over.
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    Line up the food according to temperature. The first stop on the food line should be the cold foods. The hot foods, which are usually the main dishes, should be at the end of the table. This way, your guests won't be dining on cold main courses when they find their seats.
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    Finish the table with the utensils and napkins. A common mistake made by many hosts when planning an event is to place utensils and napkins at the front end with the plates. It can be cumbersome to try to hold on to knives, forks, spoons and linens along with a plate while your guests are trying to serve themselves.


  • Plan your menu with your guests in mind, choosing foods that are easy to serve and easy to eat either standing up or sitting down and do not require a lot of work.
  • Wrap up the utensils in a napkin so that your guests don't drop the silverware. For an added decorative touch, tie the napkin with a colorful ribbon.
  • Provide a balanced meal with a protein, vegetable, starch, carbohydrate and salad, unless you are throwing a cocktail party.

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Categories: Food and Entertaining