Prior to your event, have a plan of how the buffet will be set up, know which platters and serving pieces will go in what location of the table so that when it comes to serving the meal you are confident in the arrangement. Group like foods together, for example, salad with salad dressing, bread with butter, etc. Another important tip to consider is to make sure that all hot foods are together, and all cold foods are together. This keeps the buffet table balanced and pleasing to the eye.
Remember, guests have one hand to work while going through the buffet. When you are offering salads to your guests, place the salad dressing in a squeezable bottle. This eliminates the guests having to set their plate down in order to remove the cap and then fumbling with getting their plate back in hand. Serving the butter in small pieces is also another great way to avoid delay in the line. If dining tables are set up for guests, baskets of bread and butter will be ideal.
Pedestal plates are a great way to give the buffet table height and dimension. They are also nice way to present muffins, pastries and desserts.
The illustration below is a good basis to organizing any buffet table. Feel free to adapt it to your occasion.
- Start with plates, followed by main dish, side dishes, vegetables, salads, breads, and condiments. The utensils are placed at the end of the buffet.
- Table decorations are placed above and in center of buffet arrangement.
- I prefer to set up drinks, glasses and ice on a separate table to avoid congestion.
- I also prefer to set up dessert, dessert plates, and coffee on another separate table.
- If choosing to use paper napkins, the napkins may be placed between each plate in the stack to conserve space (not more than 12 plates per stack). I prefer to wrap utensils and napkins together for the convenience of the guest.
- If setting a salad station, make sure the different salads are first, toppings second in row, and last condiments. You can add rolls, bread and butter to the salad station. Follow the illustration below. The same applies to Pasta Station, pasta first, sauces and toppings, last.