How to Set a Buffet Table | Tips for Self Catering
Setting a Buffet Table
How do you set a buffet table? Is there a certain formula? Buffets are a mainstay our society -- whether it is a potluck or pitch-in party, something as important as a wedding or maybe a baby or bridal shower, buffets are a great way to serve your food offerings.
Since buffets encourage mixing and mingling of guests they are very popular with hosts. Every host wants their guests to be comfortable and happy at their event. Making sure you have a pretty AND functional buffet will go a long way toward achieving this..
Below, I have outlined some tips curated from my years in the wedding and catering industry. Hopefully these will help with your next self catered event or party!
Credit: Karen Kuffel Party Services
Creating Different Heights is Visually Appealing - on a Buffet Set Up
There are many ways to create different heights for your buffet. One of the easiest is to use stacking cake plates. Use all three together to create a tower of sumptuous food. Or use only two or even all three separate if you like.
Designing the Décor and the Function of a Buffet - The Starting and Ending Points
Just a few suggestions to help your buffet come off without a hitch!
- If your buffet table has a true starting point, like a rectangle or long line shape, there are a few items you need to have readily available for guests at the beginning. Obviously, plates are the main ingredient. You can stack them if you like but if you want a bit more visual appeal than just a stack of plates, consider using a , a.k.a. dessert or tiered stand. You can add décor to the top or under a wire/metal frame to add some spice. Dinner Plate Rack
Keep the remainder of plates nearby but out of site so you can refill easily.
- If your buffet is more "cocktail station" style or is a round or oval table with no real starting or finishing point, you could make small stacks of plates all around your table near the foods. That way, no matter where a guest approaches from, they will have a plate they can load up!
- Place your rolled flatware at the END of a long or rectangle buffet. Guests will need both hands while serving themselves from the buffet. It's hard to juggle plates, silverware and serving at the same time.
If it is round or oval, opt to have some rolled flatware next to each plate stack for convenience.
Roll the flatware guests need in a napkin. With one grab, they get two essential items.
Dinner Plate Racks - Stands - Setting a Buffet Table
Plate racks can be used to hold plates for your buffet or they can hold platters of desserts, appetizers or whatever you serve.
A Few more Dinner Plate Racks - Choose your favorite option
Use led candles and lights. A guest reaching over an open flame is an accident waiting to happen.
Décor that is Beautiful and Well Placed - Designing Your Buffet Table
- Select your décor keeping your guests in mind. Candles are pretty and add ambience to a buffet. However, the open flame can be dangerous. Using l.e.d. votives, tealights, twinkle lights and pillar candles will keep your guests safe while they peruse your buffet. On one wants a sleeve passing over an open flame. (Suggestions shown below.)
If you must use traditional candles, use them with tall candle holders or candelabras that guests won't have to reach over or around, lessening the chance for an accident.
- Create peaks and valleys with your risers to allow guests to easily see and partake from the foods. These also give you lots of opportunities for décor. Place silk greenery in valleys and under risers. Place statuary or other décor items in and around the peaks and valleys. This makes for a welcoming and elegant display.
- Almost anything can be used on a buffet table as décor (as long as it's food safe). I have found that using silk greenery and floral bushes like English ivy and wisteria are a great way to add some color and character to your buffet table. Place them in valleys, under plate holders or 3 tiered risers or at the base of another décor item for an elegant touch.
Experiment and see what looks good!
- For more ideas and suggestions for creating a beautiful buffetscape, visit another of my articles titled Ideas for Buffets
Use LED Candles when Setting a Buffet Table
LED candles are beautiful and give you that ambient lighting a candle doe but with one definite advantage -- no open flame. Guests reaching across a buffet table can get burned or catch a sleeve on fire. Better safe than sorry!
L.E.D. Candles and Lights - Set a Great Buffet Table Accent
L.E.D. candles and lights are a much safer choice for decorating your buffet. Most have on/off switches and will avoid an open flame where guests are reaching.
Remove Unnecessary Items that can Cause Long Lines - At your Buffet Tables
These are some tips for removing unnecessary items or items that can be placed somewhere other than the buffet table.
- Beverages on tables -- Whenever possible, set your guests tables including glassware and the beverages you have chosen. If you are offering iced tea and iced water, set pitchers of each on the guest tables along with the appropriate glassware at the place settings. This will eliminate guests trying to juggle a beverage, a full food plate and silverware from the buffet to their table.
If you are having wine, place bottles and glassware on the tables as well. This can shorten the lines at the bar.
- If at all possible, set the napkin and silverware on guest tables as well. A pretty napkin fold and shiny flatware make the tables look more festive and no more juggling.
For a buffet, the guest tables can hold everything your guests need but their actual dinner plates. This makes the table beautiful and functional. You can even still use a charger if you like!
- Consider setting up one or two condiment tables away from the main buffet. This will cut down on the wait time for guests at the main buffet.
Better yet, place salt and pepper, butter, sour cream, dressings, etc... on the guest tables. They can visit while they doctor up their food in the comfort of their own table.
Public Domain Image via Pixabay.com
Guest Table Place Setting for Buffet Service
Necessities for Your Guest Tables - When Setting a Buffet Table
Remember, even when you use a buffet style for your food, there are still some things you will need on the guest table.
Make good use of your table space by building up!
Adding Height When Building a Buffet
Symmetrical, Asymmetrical or Wing It
To make things easier to reach and still make the best use of space on your buffet, think of it it terms of levels. You can use a symmetrical design, asymmetrical design or just wing it using different heights all over for a peaks and valleys feel.
Whether it is a long or rectangle table where guests will line up on only one side or a round table or double-sided serving buffet table all need to build upwards. It's easier to describe with a visual. Below are two example figures.
Risers? Use pots or pans, stacks of books or boxes, soup or veggie cans, wine or martini glasses upside down, etc... Just make sure the platter, bowl or plate is stable on whatever you use as a riser.
Self Catering Resources
- Food Buffet Ideas | Shower Menus
Food buffet ideas are plentiful for almost any event. Buffets are especially perfect fare for your baby or bridal shower menus. Explore my favorite shower menu.
- Food Ideas for Self Catering
Keeping in mind that most homes don't have chafing dishes on hand to keep food at proper serving temperatures, or refrigerated salad bars, you should be selective with the food choices. Anything on the menu
- Ideas for Buffet
Beautiful buffet tables are something guests remember. Designing a buffetscape is not as hard as you might think. These suggestions and ideas will inspire your ideas for buffets.
Best Advice of All
Dry Run of Setting Your Buffet Table
The best advice is to try a dry run. Set up a table the same size and shape you will use for your buffet. Gather all your décor, risers, fabric, dishes and anything else you might use and jump in. Try different arrangements and then go back and act as a guest going through buffet. Ask yourself questions like these:
Is everything within easy reach?
Can you see all the food offerings?
Does the décor add to the ambiance of the table and theme?
Between the buffet and the guest table, do I have everything I need to enjoy my meal?
A dry run is really the best way to know if a design will work or not. If you come up with a winner, write down (or draw) all the details so it will be easy to re-create when ready.
Image: Copyright - DecoratingforEvents - Mandee , Design by McDaniels Catered Elegance
Buffet Serving Dishes
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How to Set a Buffet Table
Tips for Self Catering
Hopefully you have come away with some awesome ideas to build on as you learned how to set a buffet table and some tips for catering.