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Article: 7 Simple Steps to Setting a Stylish Buffet

7 Simple Steps to Setting a Stylish Buffet
How-To Guide

7 Simple Steps to Setting a Stylish Buffet

Over the years, we’ve experimented with every style of serving at our gatherings. Believe us when we say that we’ve done it all: the formal dining experiences, the backyard picnics with our favorite baking dishes, and the themed charcuterie boards. Through all that, we’ve learned our favorite method of hosting a casual gathering for our loved ones—the buffet style. 
If you’re unsure of this serving style or how to successfully plan a buffet spread for your next gathering, never fear. Knowing the ins and outs of how to plan a gathering is our forte, and it can be yours, too, with a little creativity and dependable serving dishes. So, from our years of experience, here are seven steps to setting your buffet table. 


What is Buffet Style? 

Buffet style is the most casual serving setup where all the food is served from serving dishes in one area, allowing guests to serve themselves in an assembly line. Every meal you or your guests prepare sits on one table in baking dishes and on serving trays, and everyone has complete control over their own plates. Buffets are an easy-going meal for any gathering you could dream of hosting. 


When To Choose Buffet Style 

Since the nature of buffet-style serving is for guests to be able to serve themselves, choosing a buffet instead of a formal, sit-down meal is the perfect way to host a casual gathering. Encourage your guests to bring their favorite recipe in their baking dishes in a potluck style for easy planning and to ensure food everyone will love. 

When choosing a serving style, remember that a buffet is also terrific for hosting a large group of people. It helps take the stress off the host and makes planning the entire event easier. Keep dinnerware cleanup to a minimum by only needing one table full of the primary serving dishes, as opposed to family style, where every table is fully set. And when the baking dishes start to empty, it’s even easier to replenish them at your buffet table. 


Ideal Gatherings for Buffet-Style Service 

Buffets are a fail-proof and efficient way to host countless events. Enjoy an array of delectable meals in stunning serving dishes and quality time with friends and family with a buffet at these casual events:  


7 Steps to Setting a Buffet for Your Events 

Just because buffets are meant for more casual gatherings does not mean you have to leave creativity at the door. Determining color schemes, choosing beautiful dinnerware, and adding special touches will leave your guests feeling appreciated and excited about the meal. With these seven simple steps to setting your buffet table, you can create an unforgettable experience for your loved ones:  

  1. Table size

  2. Dinnerware

  3. Order of dishes 

  4. Garnishes, sauces, and toppings

  5. Serving utensils

  6. Drinks and desserts

  7. Decorations


1. Choosing the Right Size Table for Your Buffet 

Ensure your table is big enough to fit all serving dishes on the menu before the party starts. Planning for a potluck-style event may prove a little more challenging, so make sure you’re either allowing for extra space on the tabletop for your guest’s baking dishes or are ready to transfer them to your beloved collection of serving trays and dinnerware.  
Try nestling various tables together if your tables are on the smaller side. Multiple tables will create more of a serving station but will still stay true to the main qualities of buffet-style serving. Adorn each table with a matching tablecloth and your collection of serving dishes and dinnerware to create a cohesive look throughout the buffet. 


2. Including Dinnerware on the Buffet Tables 

To include or not to include dinnerware on your buffet: the age-old question. We’ve found that it ultimately depends on how your guests will sit to enjoy the meal.  
If you’re setting tables for everyone, you do not need to include dinnerware and utensils within your buffet. Simply guide your guests at the beginning of the meal to grab their dinner plate from their spot at the table and make their way through the buffet line. When they’ve served themselves, they can simply bring their dinnerware back to the table, and the utensils they’ll need will be set, waiting for them.  

If there are no designated tables set for your gathering, and your guests will sit or perch around your home, you’ll need to provide the dinnerware and utensils on the buffet table. Remember to set out napkins, forks, knives, spoons, and anything else your guests could need so they only need to pass through the line once. Until they’re ready for seconds, that is! 


3. Arrange Dishes in Menu Order in a Buffet 

Instead of haphazardly putting serving dishes on the table, arrange the dinnerware for each course in order of how the menu is intended to be served. This will help with the overall flow of your event while also making the food options clear to your guests. 
Traditionally, cold food is served first, then hot food. But you could also think of it in terms of courses. The beginning of the table is for appetizers, soups, and salads, then the main dishes follow with the desserts near the end or served separately. After your guests go through the line with their dinnerware, they’ll have served themselves the entire menu with ease. 
A hot tip for buffet settings? Go that extra mile and place written cards next to each serving dish explaining what it is and any food allergens that may be present.  


4. Place Toppings in Serving Dishes on the Buffet Table 

There’s nothing more confusing than getting to the end of the buffet table and seeing different sauces and toppings and not knowing which meal they were made for. A simple fix to take the guesswork out of it for your guests is ensuring every complementary garnish, sauce, or topping is nestled in its matching serving dish. Place each in serving bowls like the Signature White Ruffle Dipping Bowl or a Gravy Boat and place them next to their intended meal for easy access.  


5. Find the Right Serving Utensils for Every Dish 

It’s essential to have specific serving utensils for every single baking dish, casserole dish, and serving tray on your table, whether that’s little spoons for the toppings, Iris Blue Drop Mango Wood salad server sets, or tongs to pick up sweet desserts. Avoid a big mess of mixed foods by keeping the serving utensil beside the matching meal. Providing that clear direction will help make the assembly line flow smoothly for your guests and keep the stress off the host.


6. Use a Separate Buffet Table for Drinks and Desserts 

The odds are that by the end of the buffet line, your guest won’t have room on their plates for desserts or a hand open for their drinks. Solve this problem by setting up a separate table in a different area (without disrupting the food line) to store drinks and desserts in their baking dishes. Once your guests set their meals down at the table, they can make a run for drinks and, after they’re done eating, return for dessert. 


7. Spruce Up Your Buffet Table with Decorations 

Picking out a color scheme and choosing thoughtful decorations will elevate the tone of your gathering and bring beauty to the buffet table and serving dishes. Put your favorite vase of flowers in any empty spots between the dinnerware, or choose complementary table linens and napkins on every table for an elevated look. You should always complete your tablescape with table accessories for every event, including the buffet table.  


Serving Dishes You Need for a Buffet Style 

Choosing the right serveware for your gathering is easy with this helpful list. Make sure you have enough of these serving dishes and dinnerware essentials before you host your first buffet: 

  • Serving platters 

  • Serving bowls 

  • Spoon rests and serving utensils 

Serving Platters - Whether you’re using large or small ones, serving platters are the key to the whole operation. Consider the size and shape of dinnerware and the types of food you’re serving when choosing from your serving dishes. Each type of platter has a different use and look, so don’t be afraid to get creative.   

Big, round serving platters like the Deco Gold Scallop Platter are multifunctional serving dishes in buffet-style table settings. You can arrange smaller bowls and serving dishes on top. Try serving a main course with a smaller bowl of accompanying sauce on one large round platter for an easy pairing.   

Long, wide platters work well for holding a main course. Display your roast chicken, turkey, or our Sage Crusted Rib Roast on these gorgeous serving platters and dinnerware for your buffet. Long skinny platters like the Signature White Ruffle Skinny Tray are perfect for arranging food that looks good in a linear format, like a Caprese salad, sliced bread, or thinly sliced meat.   


Serving Bowls - Serving bowls are a must-have dinnerware item for any buffet serving dish collection. Keep your table mess-free by storing any meal with juices or sauce in a serving bowl rather than a platter. Large and shallow bowls like our Iris Blue Burst Large Pasta Bowl are perfect for a main course, like pasta, whereas large and deep bowls like the Fundamental Wood Large Ruffle Bowl are perfect for salads. Don’t forget a trifle bowl to create depth and height in your dinnerware serving spread! 


Spoon Rests and Serving Utensils - Spoon rests, like the Signature White Spoon Rest, are some of our favorite dinnerware items in the kitchen, so why not bring them to the buffet table? Nestle a few spoon rests among your serving dishes to house the intended serving utensils for each dish. These are especially needed if the utensils don’t stay in the dish well or are even at risk of falling out and splattering food everywhere. Keep your buffet table clean and give your utensils a lovely place to rest.  

Serving utensils are such a simple piece of the puzzle, but it’s imperative to understand which one should go with what kind of dish. Make sure you have forks for meat options and spoons for anything that’s softer and with sauce or juices. Grab a pair of tongs or servers for anything that needs a little extra control, like pasta or salad. Don’t forget those smaller-sized appetizer forks and spoons for the toppings, sauces, and garnishes. 


How to Order Utensils and Dinnerware on a Buffet Style Table 

If you need to set your utensils and dinnerware on the buffet table and not on individually set dining tables, there’s a foolproof way. When setting a buffet table, plates are the first thing on the end of the table, and utensils are the last. To prevent your guests from juggling their dinnerware, be sure to place utensils at the end for a quick pick-up before they head to their table.  

How to Create Layers in Your Buffet Style Spread 

Just because buffet styles work for casual events doesn’t mean you can’t elevate the spread with unique dinnerware options and your favorite serving dishes. For example, you can use cake tiers, upside-down bowls, and more for creative tiers and layers in your buffet dinnerware. 
Add a cake stand to your serving spread to create height and a tiered approach. Not only does this save surface area on your table for more dishes to be added, but the multiple layers will add an interesting visual choice to what could be a plain table. Layer our Signature White 14-inch and 11 Inch Cake Stands for two layers, or add more round platters for a third tier. If you need to create layers with bowls, turn one bowl upside down and put a serving platter on top! 
We love to gather our nearest and dearest for buffet-style meals whenever a casual occasion arises. With these simple and accessible tips, you, too, can feel inspired to host your own buffet at home. After these easy steps, you can start preparing to bring out your best dinnerware and serving dishes and host an unforgettable buffet meal for you and your loved ones to enjoy. 

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