Too often people make easily avoidable mistakes when setting up a buffet table. Creating a buffet is super easy, HOWEVER, there are 9 biggest mistakes setting up a buffet I see being made ALL THE TIME!
And it is SO EASY to avoid them.
Setting up a buffet food table is ideal for large and/or informal gatherings. All you need to do is put out the food and people will serve themselves what they want, and how much they want. Plus, if your guests contribute to the meal it takes a little pressure off you.
When you are planning a food buffet for your next party, be sure and review the following buffet setup mistakes, so you don’t make them too. You will surely impress your friends and family!
Take your food buffet from this…
Don’t make these 9 mistakes when setting up your buffet!!
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Buffet setting mistake #1: Plates, utensils, and napkins in the wrong spot
I bet you are wondering “what’s the wrong spot” for your plates, utensils, and napkins? Really? Is there a wrong place for them? The answer is yes!
First, the plates should go at the beginning of the buffet table. Not in the middle of the table. This will provide a clear “entrance” to the buffet line. There will be no confusion about which direction your guests should go.
Second, don’t put the utensils and napkins next to the plates. Your guests will be fumbling with them, as they try to dish their food onto their plate.
The correct spot for the utensils and napkins is at the opposite end of the buffet table as the plates. So, your guests can grab them after they have loaded up their plates with your fantastic grub.
Buffet setting mistake #2: Putting the buffet table against a wall
I am guilty of making this mistake when setting up a buffet table. Sometimes, to make space, it is easiest to push the table against a wall. But to allow for more guests to access the buffet, and for the line to go faster, pull the table away from the wall. Then guests can go in the same direction and on both sides of the table.
Buffet setting mistake #3: Having food and drinks on the same table
When you have a party, don’t put the food and drinks on the same table. Instead, create two different locations for them.
Why? Because it helps with the flow of your guests getting their food.
Guests that want to refresh or get a new drink, don’t want to wait for someone to get their food. The same goes for guests that are dishing out their food. They don’t want to wait for someone to go in front of them so they can grab a drink.
Buffet setting mistake #4: Not having food cards – label food dishes
Your guests won’t know what food is in a dish just by looking at it.
Save your guests from asking and create food cards for each dish. This is especially helpful for guests that have food allergies, or preferences.
You can easily avoid this buffet mistake by having slips of paper and markers available for guests to use so they can identify the dishes they bring.
Buffet setting mistake #5: Utensils facing up
This is such an easy mistake to avoid when setting up your buffet table. I know it’s easy to put the utensils, handle side down, in a container, but don’t do it.
Why? Because your guests will be forced to grab the top of the utensil – the fork tines, or the knife blade, to take it out of the container.
Then what happens? They unintentionally end up touching other utensils. Your guests won’t want to use something that someone else’s hand has just touched.
Make sure that the utensil handles are facing up.
Buffet setting mistake #6: Lid still on dishes
Just before you make the food buffet available to your guests, remove the lids from the dishes.
I know it sounds obvious, but it is a common mistake I see happen time and again. Guests want to serve themselves something, but first, they need to remove the lid, and then they need to find a place to put the lid. Super annoying!
Buffet setting mistake #7: Not having serving utensils or a place to rest them
All too often your guests will bring their food dish but forget to bring a serving utensil. Make sure you have a few spare utensils and add them to the serving dishes. Guests don’t want to take a utensil from one dish, to use in a different dish.
Also, make sure you have a place to rest the serving utensils. Not all serving utensils will stay in food dishes. You don’t want the serving utensil to slide into the food dish. Yuck!
Protect your tablecloth and table from food stains by having a small dish or spot to put the serving utensils.
Buffet setting mistake #8: Not putting condiments near the food they go with
Think about the food you will be serving on the buffet table and put the condiments associated with the dishes next to them. Put the salad dressings by the salad, put the dips by the veggies, the mayo by the bread, etc. Make it easy for guests to know what condiment goes with which dish.
If you are serving burgers, allow enough space for guests to put their plate down and add condiments to their buns. Or you can have a separate burger building station, just for that purpose.
Buffet setting mistake #9: Everything on the table at one height
Boring! Having everything at one height on a buffet table is a mistake I see made all the time. I know it’s easy, requires no thought, but it’s visually boring and uninteresting.
Elevate (literally) your buffet table by adding a little height to sections of it. Your guests will find it visually appealing, and with very little effort it will quickly take your buffet to the next level.
The image below uses all of the same items from the “boring” buffet table example at the top of this post. See how much more attractive and functional it is.
And SO easy for you to do, too!
Take a look at my How to Create a Professional Looking Buffet post to learn how easy it is to do it yourself. Plus, you will seriously impress your friends and family with an elevated buffet!
**Watch the Video**
I also have a video with the same info. Check it out…
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Mustard, ketchup, etc should be put in a dish or bowl. Do not put the containers on the table unless it’s an outside picnic.
Juanita ~ Yes, you are SO right! I didn’t clarify that in the post. Thank you!
I attended a BBQ buffet and the dessert was bread pudding. They placed the BBQ sauce next to the bread pudding. It looked like caramel sauce. Yuck!
OMG! That’s a nasty surprise ~ but makes for a funny story later! I hope they learned their lesson, lol.
Tremendously helpful! Thank you so much.
So glad to hear you found them helpful! Thanks for letting me know.