Setting the Buffet Table
Letting guests serve themselves is easy and convenient for small or large groups, casual or formal occasions, especially if you have limited seating or serving space. Use these guidelines to make your buffet as efficient as it can be!
- Set up the buffet wherever it's most convenient--on the dining room table, a picnic table, two card tables placed together, a kitchen counter or a desk.
- It's important to serve foods that do not need to be cut with a knife, because your guests will usually have to balance plates on their laps.
- Serve rolls or bread already buttered, and provide small tables on which guests can place their beverages. You can bring guests any accompaniments such as sauce, gravy or salsa.
- Make sure the traffic can flow easily around the serving area.
- If possible, place the buffet table in the center of the room, so guests can help themselves from all sides of the table. Or push it against a wall to save space.
- Be sure guests know where the line starts. Place the food in order so guest can serve themselves without backtracking. Plates first, main course and vegetables next, then salad, condiments and bread, with flatware and napkins last. Placing flatware and napkins at the end of the line allows guests to have a hand free to serve themselves.
- While guests finish the main course, you can clear the buffet table and arrange the dessert, dessert plates and flatware on the buffet table or on a side table.
There are basically 3 types of buffets:
True Buffet: Guests pick up their food, beerage and flatware from the buffet table, then find a place to sit. Keep in mind your guests might be balancing plates on their laps, so be sure to use real plates or very sturdy paper or plastic plates. Also, try to serve that don't need to be cut with a knife to make eating easier for your guests. Butter the rolls or breads ahead of time, and make sure there are places where guests can set their beverages.
Semi-Buffet: Guests serve themselves from the buffet table, then sit at a set table. The host may serve accompaniments, such as sauce or gravy, at the table. Or the host may fill plates from the buffet table, then serve them to the seated guests. (This style of buffet often is used at holidays when turkey and roasts are carved at the table.
Seated Buffet: Guests serve themselves from the buffet table, then sit at a table set with glasses, flatware an napkins. With this type of buffet, you're not limited to "fork-only" food.