How to Arrange a Table for a Buffet Style Party

by Penny Morris
Consider the most user-friendly set up when hosting a buffet party.

Consider the most user-friendly set up when hosting a buffet party.

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Buffet-style parties are incredibly versatile. Any level of party food can be served buffet style. An informal sports party serving wings, burgers and chips works just as well as a fancy holiday meal. Arrange the buffet table in the center of the room for easy refilling access or place it along the wall for maximum mingling space. Guest convenience is the most important thing to consider when setting up a buffet. You don't want your guests to be juggling several plates, a napkin and silverware while trying to serve themselves. Keep foods simple and the line flowing.. If someone has to set their plate down to serve, spread, or add topping to a dish, it creates a backup of hungry guests!

Items you will need

  • Sturdy paper plates
  • Silverware
  • Food
  • Tablecloth
  • Boxes or cans
  • Ice
Step 1

Consider room and table space. Set the buffet table in an easily accessible space that doesn't overcrowd the room. Make use of both sides of the table, and have two lines going at once.

Step 2

Design a layout that allows your guests to flow from station to station. Place plates at the beginning of the line so the guests know where to begin, and start the culinary tour with the main dishes, then vegetables and side dishes and finally salads and breads. Make the napkins and silverware as the final destination to give your guests a free hand to serve themselves.

Step 3

Create a visually pleasing setup by using different levels and colors. Choose a few boxes and cans to elevate certain dishes, especially if they're the tastiest ones! Cover the table and risers with a tablecloth or add flowers, ribbons or other small touches in keeping with the party theme.

Step 4

Group similar foods together, and keep hot foods with other hot foods within each course. Maintain enough distance between the varying temperatures that your veggies don't wilt!

Step 5

Check on the food temperatures often and replace warm foods that are cooling or cold foods that have reached room temperature. Reheat hot food periodically or refill with hot replacements from the kitchen if not using chaffing dishes. Use bowls of ice to keep cold foods cold.

Tips & Warnings

  • Keep an eye on any dish or condiment that may spoil and refresh it often. The guests are here for fun, not food poisoning!
  • Keep in mind the number of guests when deciding the size of the table. Use a small round table for a party with fewer guests and a longer table for large parties.
  • Don't keep food sitting out when guests are done eating. Go ahead and switch to a dessert setup.
  • Don't allow decorations placed between courses to spill over into the food.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images