Divine Dinner Party

Easy & Practical
Buffet Table Setting Tips

Thought a buffet table setting would be easier than a sit-down dinner party, did ya? But hey... setting up a great buffet table isn't as easy as you thought! I know the feeling.

While it's true that a buffet style dinner is generally easier to pull off than a full sit down menu (and takes less kitchen space to prepare), buffet table setting can still get a little complicated. Follow these practical tips to create a buffet table stress- and problem-free. No hiccups or last-minute scrambling for this hostess.

Buffet Table Setting Outdoor with Picnic Styling

Tips for Setting Up a Buffet Table
(and Lots of Buffet Table Photos)

Buffet Set-Up Tip No. 1: Room Arrangement.

Whether you’re squeezing too many guests into your small dining area or have space to spare, the right set-up is key to making your buffet table setting work. It’s best to place the buffet table in the middle of a room if possible, giving access from both sides. Unless you want bumper-to-bumper party traffic, it’s also a good idea to set up the beverage table as far from the buffet table as possible. Drinks spill, so you probably want to keep guest collisions to a minimum.

Buffet Set-Up Tip No. 2: Table Arrangement.

Sure, pretty is important, but you also have to think about the logical arrangement of your foods. For your buffet table setting, start with plates on one end, then main dish(es), follow it up with veggies and sides, then salad(s). Last should be the utensils and napkins, so your guests don't have to try clutching them with one hand while serving with the other. Even better, roll the utensils up in a napkin so there's only one thing for your guests to carry. If you're having a larger dinner party (more than, say, 15-20 people), it's a good idea to do your buffet table setting with a double-sided table, allowing guests to line up and serve themselves from either side. This will keep traffic jams to a minimum.

Buffet Table Setting with a Logical Arrangement

Arranging buffet foods in a logical way makes for easier serving.

Buffet Table Setting with Added Height Covered by Tablecloths

This buffet table setting uses height and space to make for easier access.

Buffet Set-Up Tip No. 3: Choose foods wisely.

This common buffet scene sound familiar? Plate in one hand. Cup and fork clutched in the other. A chicken breast on the plate and no way to cut it. You look around, wondering where you might get a third hand to help you cut your food and eat it. Funny, but... not very fun.

If you're hosting a buffet dinner party, it's often because you don't have the table space for a large number of guests. If your guests will be eating standing or sitting with plates on their laps, try to be considerate with your menu. Don't serve foods that are complicated to eat or require much cutting or slicing. Your guests will thank you.

Simple Buffet Table Setting with Finger Foods

This shows how even a simple buffet table with easy-to-eat foods can still be a stunner.

Buffet Set-Up Tip No. 4: Watch those Temperatures.

Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Simple right? Set cold dishes up on ice, and rent chafing dishes for hot dishes. Don’t want to spend money on a chafing dish? A simple solution is to wrap a couple of bricks in tin foil and heat them up in the oven. Place them on your table (use a heat-proof pad!) underneath your hot dishes to keep them warm.

As a guideline, hot dishes shouldn't sit at room temperature for more than two hours or so. If the ambient temperate is warm (about 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit or more), no more than an hour. Food poisoning stinks.

Hawaiian Buffet Table Setting with Orchids

Decorative flowers make this Hawaiian table setting fun and fresh.

Buffet Set-Up Tip No. 5: Add visual appeal.

Adding height is a longstanding trick used by fancy hotel buffets everywhere. Adding height both gives the buffet table visual appeal and makes particular dishes more easily accessible. Did you slave over one great-looking dish? Make it stand out! Any sturdy object can be used to add height, from a wooden box to a plastic bucket. Simply cover it with a tablecloth and you're good to go.

Another buffet table setting trick that will add appeal and make your guests feel welcome to eat as much as they want is to overfill your platters. Overflowing serving dishes will keep guests from worrying about leaving enough food for others. You want them to have their fill of your great cooking, right?

Check here for even more creative ways to decorate a buffet table.

Shelves and Wood Slices Add Height to Buffet Table Settings

Don't like to look of draped tablecloths? This buffet table uses logs and shelves to add height and visual appeal.

Buffet Set-Up Tip No. 6: Test your arrangement.

This last one is simple. Before the event, test out your buffet table setting by putting out all platters and bowls you plan to use. Arrange them all just as you would on the day of the event to make sure they'll all fit. This'll help you avoid any last-minute scrambling for more space or different platters on the day itself.

Anything Can Be Used to Add Height to a Buffet Table Setting

Simply cover a bucket or box with a tablecloth to add height to your buffet table setting.

Go from Practical Buffet Table Setting Tips to Buffet Planning Central!

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