Buffets are great for dinner parties that have a focus on mingling. The dishes on the buffet dictate how formal the party is as opposed to the serving manner. It is the simplest way to serve a large group of people and meet everyone’s accommodations. Some may choose to eat to their heart’s content while others may sample the food. The best part is that you are kept out of the kitchen and with your guests. Here are some tips on how to set a buffet table.


It sounds simple. Put all the food on a long table. Actually, it takes a bit more of thought to ensure that the buffet table is user friendly. Begin by arranging the buffet in the order of how the guests will eat their meal. For example, the first portion of the table will have the salad and dressings or soup. If appetizers are served, they will follow. The sides will come next, and the main entrees should be placed at the very end.

Ease of Use

Another question many people have is where to place the plates and the silverware. The plates will obviously be at the start of the buffet line. The silverware is most easily grabbed if it is located at the end of the line. This way your guests will not have to clumsily attempt maintain a hold on their silverware as they are trying to dish out their food. The napkins are also most easily grabbed at the end of the buffet.

However, the one exception to this rule would be regarding salad forks. If the guests are beginning with a salad and returning for their main meal, they should not have to walk to the end of the buffet to grab a fork.

Also, if the buffet is going to be double-sided, each dish should have two serving utensils. Even if you do not expect the buffet to be that crowded, your guests will appreciate the option of digging into a dish that is already being occupied.

Additional Tables

If the space allows, it is a good idea to have the drink and desert tables separate from the main buffet. This encourages people to return to their table to drop off their plate, and prevents them from trying to perform a potentially messy balancing act with their plates, silverware, and drinks. It also promotes a smaller line for those who are grabbing simply grabbing a slice of pie or need a quick glass of juice to wash down a salty or spicy dish.

Avoid Problems

While buffet tables are used to make the dinner party more relaxed, there are some complications that can arise. First, make sure that there are plenty of plates and silverware. You do not want to have to run to the kitchen to do dishes in the middle of the party, or run to the store to grab a pack of disposables. Second, prepare plenty of food. People may gorge themselves on certain dishes or they may eat sparingly because they are more capable of mingling. Either way, it is always better to plan as though you were inviting scavengers to your party.

The final problem that could ruin a party with a buffet table would be food poisoning. Since the food will likely be sitting out unattended for a long period of time, it is absolutely necessary that each remains at the appropriate temperature. Put hot dishes on warming plates or in crock pots, and place cold dishes on top of ice. It is a good idea to periodically take the temperature of the food throughout the party, or it could be your last.

Following these tips will ensure that your buffet table is efficient, easy to use, and safe. Here are a few other links that can help you to make the most out of your buffet table.

USDA: Script Buffet Table – The USDA has provided information regarding the safety of food, especially when it comes to buffets.

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