How to Set Up a Buffet Table

When you're entertaining a crowd, a buffet can be the simplest way to serve food. A buffet saves yourself the hassle of plating meals for every guest. Plus, it allows your guests to fill their plates with the food and portions they desire. Your buffet table needs to be functional, ensuring guests can move through it efficiently while having access to all foods. Your buffet can also serve as a decorative element in your home, adding color, charm and elegance to your event. Set up your buffet table thoughtfully and decorate it with your theme in mind with these tips.

Mid-Century Buffet - Large

Establish Your Table Layout

Assess the functionality of your buffet table as you begin your setup. First, consider where you want to set up your table. You want adequate open floor space around the table so that guests can maneuver easily around it. Depending on your room layout, you might choose to float the buffet table in the middle of the floor, which will allow guests to move through the buffet on both sides. On the other hand, a buffet table set against a wall takes up less floor space, opening up your room. Another key factor to consider when choosing a layout is envisioning where the buffet line will weave. Make sure your guests can create a line without bumping into furniture, cabinets or walls.

Once you've identified where to place your buffet table, it's time to lay it out. Keep your menu in mind when setting up the buffet table. Place foods in a logical order. For example, if you're hosting a make-your-own taco bar, taco shells and tortillas should be placed first, followed by meat and toppings. Sketch out your layout on a sheet of paper to note where each food item should be placed so that you're ready for the next step of setup.

Design Your Table

The design step just might be the most fun part of creating a festive buffet table. This step allows you to get creative and add your personality to the table. Use linens as the base of your buffet table. A classic white tablecloth lends a touch of elegance to your buffet table and works well for more formal gatherings. Don't shy away from color when creating your buffet table. You can add color with the linens themselves or with your serveware, flowers or candles. If you're unsure of how to decorate your buffet table, let your occasion serve as your inspiration. For example, a bridal shower buffet table might feature photos of the happy couple, candles for soft lighting or vases filled with the bride-to-be's favorite flowers.

Once your linens are in place, it's time to refer to your notes and lay out your serveware. Follow the guide you created that indicates which foods go where. Then, select serveware that's built to accommodate each food. Make smart choices by keeping foods with sauces or liquids in bowls or casserole dishes to avoid spilling food on your linens. When selecting serveware, incorporate different elements for a unique style. You don't have to have a matching set for your party. Opt for varied heights, which add intrigue to the buffet table and make food more accessible. For example, display desserts on a multi-tiered tray for added visual intrigue.

Complete Your Buffet Table

Now that the basic elements of your buffet table are in place, it's time to add those finishing touches that are both practical and personalized. Make navigating the buffet easier for your guests by including dish name cards that let guests know what every food is. Small chalkboard easels or folded pieces of cardstock work well and fit nicely next to serveware. Place your dish name cards directly next to the dish for easy navigation.

Reactive Gray Speckle Serveware

Another must is proper serving utensils, which can make your buffet run more efficiently. Make sure you have the right utensils in place for different foods and consider adding more than one utensil for each dish. This second utensil is especially important if guests will be navigating the buffet table from two sides.

Hosting a buffet at your next event can be a cinch with smart planning. By creating a table that's as functional as it is aesthetically pleasing, you ensure that guests can fill their plate with delicious food with ease.

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