Planning a dinner party? You have the option of having a sit-down meal, where guests are served or take food from the center of the table, or a buffet. Buffets generally work for larger parties, or if you have a small table that won’t fit all of the guests. Potlucks are often served buffet-style.
For a successful buffet, don’t just line all the food at the biggest table you own, and instruct the guests to ‘go ahead and dig in.’ Everyone will crowd at the table, and generally get annoyed at having to wait in line. Instead, use these tried and tested tips from party planners.
Divide and conquer
If you have a lot of guests, avoid long lines and grumbling guests by spreading the food across different tables. Allot enough space between the tables so that the guests don’t bump into each other.
For smaller parties, you can use just one table. Ideally the table should be centered, so they can go around the table instead of converging on just one side.
Use a smart arrangement
It’s best to line up the plates, cutlery and food in a way that guests can get what they need without having to backtrack. Experts recommend putting plates first, followed by utensils. You can try creating individual sets (a spoon, fork and knife) wrapped in a napkin, so guests can grab everything they need in one swift motion. This is followed by the food, and then glasses at the end.
Add some style
Don’t forget to decorate the buffet table! Even a simple accent can add elegance and flair, or help reinforce your party theme. You can place flower arrangements of different heights, or a cluster of pretty vases. Or take a cue from your theme. Summer party? Fill a goldfish bowl with sand and small seashells, and place next to tall candles in summer shades of blue, yellow and white.
Choose buffet-appropriate food
Unless you have special containers that can keep food warm, choose dishes that hold their flavor and texture even after they’ve grown cold. For the same reason, don’t pour the dressing on the salad (the lettuce will get soggy). Instead, serve it separately.
A buffet should offer a good range of choices. That doesn’t mean you have to make 10 complicated dishes. You can just make a salad bar or a taco bar, which lets people pick their fillings. Or, prepare two kinds of sauces for a roast beef. Also consider the dietary requirements or needs of your guests. Is anyone vegetarian? Diabetic? Allergic to chicken or shellfish? Provide at least one dish they can enjoy.
Photo from witc.edu