Buffet Tips

Tips for Flawless Buffet Service

Written by Elizabeth Engelman
June 27th, 2012

Summer is the time for outdoor dining, poolside drinks and tasty buffets. With wedding season ramping up and many warm weather festivities taking place, buffets continue to be a go-to for memorable dining events. Use these helpful tips when planning your next buffet setup.

Positioning and Flow

The right buffet setup can save invaluable time and money. A well laid out plan allows hungry patrons to get what they want without suffering in long lines. Avoid overcrowding by positioning tables and stations away from doorways and a good distance from the dining area. Depending on the number of attendees, decide if a single or double buffet line is best. For set up of a double buffet line, opt for chafers that can serve both sides, which will allow service to move quickly and smoothly.

Table Space

There are several options of table styles to suit any buffet setup. You can select either straight or curved tables, depending on the room size and arrangement. Curved tables can be placed together to create a circular table or used alone to save space. Using tiered display stands allows for more food to be featured on the table in a confined space while adding depth, dimension and unique factors to the tablescape. You can choose to drape risers or use mirrored stands to create a decorative feel.

Mobile Stations

Pre-planning is key for mobile buffets. Since free-standing stations, such as carving or omelet stations, require electrical outlets, determine location and availability of outlets prior to mapping out floor space. Countertop stations generally require induction burners, so check in advance for compatibility with the induction plans that will be in use. Prior to setting up any buffet, consult with state and county fire code officials about open flames for confirmation that gas or electric is permitted.


Above all else, keeping food safe at a buffet is essential. Be sure every employee involved in buffet set up and service adheres to all food safety guidelines and best practices. Use chafers to hold food at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer, and ice displays to keep cold foods at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. When presenting buffet-style, consider use of a sneeze guard to protect foods from contamination. Label food properly, helping guests with allergies or other concerns know exactly what they are putting on their plate. Have ample serving utensils for every food pan to avoid cross-contamination and keep extras on hand.

Special Tip: Make your banquet tabletops as gorgeous as your buffetscape with our table setting guide.

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