Ever been to a party with great food on a beautifully arranged buffet table all served up by an unruffled host? If you're like me, you've probably left a few of these parties wondering just how they pulled it off. While the host who throws perfect parties time after time may seem a magician, there's certainly no spell needed to lay out a great buffet table.
From holiday gatherings to baby showers, any space large or small can easily serve a crowd if you know a few simple tricks - and here's our Video and 5 easy steps to show you how.
Video: See how we set up this buffet table in a tiny space in just minutes:
Step 1: Start with a Plan... Ahead of Time
The first and probably most important tip is to make your serving plan a few days in advance - maybe even before you finalize your menu. Knowing which foods go on each dish or platter and where those pieces fit on the serving table beforehand can make party day setup a breeze.
Step 2: Give Yourself Some Space
Next take a look at your space and furniture arrangement. What works for everyday may not work for a crowd, so don't be afraid to rearrange your furniture. When it comes to buffet table placement, remember this simple rule: If two people can't easily pass along the sides of the table, it's better to move the table and serve from the front. In tight kitchen or dining areas this usually means moving chairs to other spaces for additional seating and placing the table against a wall. This open arrangement gives guests plenty of mingle room and table access.
Step 3: Pick Your Platters, Plates & Trays
Once you're happy with the serving table placement, take a look at your serving pieces. If you're short on the types of platters or bowls you need to serve your party foods, now is the time to hit the party store. And remember, plastic trays and bowls are always ideal choices for a worry-free buffet table. You can also get creative with what you have on-hand. Repurpose a few casserole dishes to hold rows of crackers or cookies and use napkin-lined baskets to serve breads or muffins. Even wooden or bamboo cutting boards make great bread or cheese boards - just give them a good washing first.
Step 4: Arrange Your Buffet Table Like the Pros
Next arrange your buffet table using the selected serving pieces. And remember the secret catering pros use to make it all fit and look fabulous - create height! It's easy if you have a few cake pedestals or serving sets with stands. If not, you can easily make your own using stemware. To do this, simply turn over two to four stemmed glasses to create stands and set platters or trays on top. Martini and margarita glasses work best since the wide rims create a stable base. Wine glasses work, too, but you might want to use more for stability. Create shorter stands for small bowls or plates using upturned bowls or tumblers. On party day, use double-sticky tape or removable glue dots to keep the raised pieces in place on their stands.
Lay out your buffet table placing taller pieces toward the back of a front-serve table, or along the center of a two-sided serving table. Then place shorter platters, large bowls, and finish off with smaller pieces. Remember to place crackers, dips and other complimentary foods close together on the table.
Tip 5: Pull in Extra Pieces to Make it All Work
Last, don't forget to put other pieces to work. If you have shelves, a bakers rack or a side table available, set that up adjacent to the buffet table for plates, utensils and napkins. This maximizes serving space on the buffet table and creates a flow that works well with any size crowd.