The Right Way to Set Up a Buffet Table
Buffet style meal service can be a great way to offer a variety of foods to a large group of guests, as long as you keep it organized and put some thought into setting it up. Smooth, clear navigation and easy to handle dishes and utensils are key, as are these other tips.
- Stack plates at the head of the table, and silverware and napkins at the end.
- All the food should be accessible from both sides, even for small groups, and all lids and covers should be completely removed once serving starts.
- Start with the main course, then the side dishes, and finally the salads and bread.
- Be sure to duplicate condiments on both sides of the dishes they coordinate with, for easy accessibility.
- Provide tongs and ladles instead of forks and spoons for serving whenever possible.
- If offering grilled goods consider a separate station by the grill so meat and veggies can be served up as freshly as possible.
- Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold via generous buffet burners and ice.
- Refill often to maintain freshness and flavor.
- If serving a wide variety of dishes consider labeling with place cards so guests know what's what.
- Lettuce wilts quickly outdoors or in a warm room so consider a grain-based version, like this Mediterranean Grain Salad, as a sturdier and longer lasting substitute.
- Beverages should be served on a separate table that's far enough away from the main buffet so as not to cause traffic congestion.
- Dessert should also be served separately, on its own table, and should not be put out until after the main course.