- Think logically through the traffic flow at your buffet table. Consider from which end the guests will most likely approach the table, then set up the plates at that end. Space the serving dishes so guests have a little room to set their plates as they serve themselves, and be sure to have appropriate servingware in the serving dishes. If practical, set the buffet table in advance (minus food) using slips of paper to designate specific spaces or serving dishes and utensils for certain foods.
- Put related items near each other at the table – for example, chips and dip, rolls and sandwich fillings, meatballs and toothpicks.
- Remember condiments for rolls, salt or pepper for potato salad, and other appropriate accompaniments.
- Little saucers or plates for serving spoons help guests treat your table linens kindly!
- Stagger the heights of your serving bowls or platters, placing some items atop cake stands or inverted pieces (securely), to make the table more attractive as well as more accessible.
- Unless foods are unmistakable, label each dish with a small, folded-card table tent or a name-and-ingredient card in a small dime-store photo frame.
- Put napkins and flatware at the end of the buffet (maybe even rolled up together), so guests don’t have to juggle them all through the line. Because this may be a new concept, you may need to put a little note at the beginning of the line letting guests know that utensils and napkins may be picked up at the end of the line.
- If possible, set up a beverage station far enough away from the food table that guests can get drinks after exiting the buffet line without backing up the flow of traffic at the food tables, or can refresh their drinks without interfering with guests serving themselves at the buffet.
- Same for after-dinner snacks and desserts: If possible, set them up in a separate but visible location, with plenty of extra flatware and napkins for guests who have already disposed of their cutlery and napkins. And start the “cuts” in the desserts (in very small portions, of course!), so guests feel free to sample lots of goodies without fear of mangling the mousse or butchering the baklava.
- Also, if the set-up is not near the kitchen, it’s helpful to have some little tables or trays around the room for guests to deposit used cups, plates, etc. You may need to put a “starter” slightly-used plate or cup on the tray to give them the idea. Or if you have a large group and lots of paper goods, make the wastebaskets accessible without letting them overpower the room.
- One last caution! Make sure your snack mix can be distinguished from any bowls of potpourri around the room (the voice of experience . . .).
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