|Buffet set-ups are a very popular serving option for a variety of reasons. It's usually cost prohibitive to pay a wait staff to serve our guests but it also removes one more burden from the shoulders of the host. Whether a formal or informal gathering, a buffet set-up can work quite well.
There are no hard and fast rules which dictate how to set up a buffet table but there are some things to keep in mind. Probably the most important factor to consider is traffic flow.
-how do you want your guests to travel from item to item
-be sure to keep the pathway clear from kitchen to buffet table(s)
-separate the beverage traffic from food traffic
-have plenty of trash receptacles available in plain sight but away from traffic and dining areas
If it is possible, set the bar up in one room/area, the food buffet in another, and the dining in another. This will help ease congestion and eliminate potential food and drink disasters.
How the meal is organized on the buffet can also ease traffic flow.
Fresh plates should be easily accessible where your guest start. Utensils and dinner napkins can be place at the start of the table, but you may want to place them in additional locations along the path in case a guest forgets to pick them up at the beginning or drops one.
How the individual items are located on the table is dictated by your menu. Just be sure to leave enough room for your guests maneuver and serve themselves. To save space, different food can displayed on different levels. The highest levels should be located down the rear or center of the table with the lower levels closest to your guests. Levels can created with inverted pots or pans. Stacked books also work well. Draping a table cloth over them will not only dress up the presentation but offer protection from drips and spills.
Of course how your tables are set up depend heavily on the amount of space you have available.
A table with a single path works well for most occasions. Unfortunately this can slow the flow if you have numerous guests.
A nice alternative is to have a path of access from both sides of the table. Make sure every item is easily accessible from either route. If not, then consider having multiple servings of certain dishes. One drawback to this style layout is that it is difficult to replenish food items as they are consumed.
If you are not hindered by space, setting several rounds, approachable from all sides may be the way to go. Each table should host a different course and don't forget plenty of plates and utensils on each table. Guests should be encouraged to begin serving from what ever table they would prefer.
Now that you know how to set up your buffet you can focus on developing an inviting presentation. Click here for some ideas.