Tips for Planning a Buffet

When entertaining, a buffet is one of the most convenient options for presenting food and beverages to your guests. Each person can serve him or herself, sampling and returning for more if desired. It also allows guests who arrive later to enjoy the meal without feeling as if they are interrupting. A guest can simply fix a plate and join everyone else at his or her leisure. A buffet helps create a bit more relaxed atmosphere even for the most formal dinner parties.

Another benefit of serving food buffet style is the ability to offer more choices. When serving food “family style,” where all the food is placed on the dining table and guests pass each item, there is a limit to how many items can be served. If a guest doesn’t care for something, it can be awkward.

When planning a buffet, keep in mind that you’ll need appropriate ways to keep hot food hot and cold food cold. Chafing dishes work well, but you can also employ your Crock-Pot if it is attractive or you have an attractive cover for it. You can also use insulated dishes for hot and cold items alike. For foods that need to be kept very cold, place a larger container beneath the serving dish and add ice. Don’t fill it too full, as it may run over as ice begins to melt.

Offer plenty of choices when serving food buffet style. It is wise to offer more than one entrée as well as several side dishes from which to choose. Bread or rolls should also be included, as should a relish tray and any accompanying condiments.

Organization and presentation are two of the most important ingredients to make a buffet enticing. You can arrange your offerings by type, for example, placing all entrees together or setting side dishes near one another. Another option is to serve sliced roast beef beside potatoes and chicken breast near dressing. Foods that complement each other should be placed together.

The presentation should be attractive, and “merchandising” is a helpful method for creating a beautiful presentation. Start by choosing an attractive covering for the surface you intend to use for the buffet. You can place a small, sturdy box beneath the covering and swirl the fabric around the base of it. Place smaller dishes, relishes, or condiments on top to lift them. This creates visual interest instead of simply lining everything up symmetrically. Surround the lifted areas with other foods or decorative items.

Place plates, napkins, and silverware at one end of the buffet and direct guests to start at one end and work their way down. You may want to roll silverware in napkins for easier handling. This way, your guests can grasp knife, fork, spoon, and napkin at once instead of awkwardly trying to hold on to separate items while filling or carrying a plate. Tie a ribbon around the napkin for a decorative touch and place silverware rolls in a basket or decorative container. Be sure to also provide loose napkins so guests won’t have to ask if they need an extra one.

It’s a good idea to set the buffet with both large and small plates as well as small bowls. Some people have smaller appetites, and others simply prefer to keep foods separate. For finishing touches to your buffet, add flowers, candles, and other decorative items to create an inviting look. Make sure scented candles don’t overpower or clash with food aromas.

*Finally, be sure to stir food occasionally and check it frequently so you can replenish it as needed.

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