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How To Set Up a Food Table for a Party Beautifully and With Ease

Here at Ohza, we love to party plan. Every little detail matters, from the decorations to the entertainment and, most importantly, the food. Prepping food and beverages for a party is a fun way to let your creativity flow.

One of the easiest ways to do this is through a buffet-style table. A buffet is one of the best ways to feed your hungry partygoers in an easy and accessible manner.

Not sure where to start? Party planning can be a little overwhelming, but there’s no need to worry. We have all the tips and tricks you need to conquer party planning like a champ, plus a surefire for creating the best buffet table around. Here’s how it’s done so you can be the best host you can be, with ease and style.

Pick the Menu

Before you can even set up your table, it’s crucial to know what menu you will be serving for your party.

It’s important to decide first how you will approach the evening. Will your guests be enjoying a full meal, small bites, or hors d'oeuvres? It’s wise to decide the size of the menu before you start experimenting in the kitchen or get any creative ideas.

It’s also a good idea to figure out if party guests will be bringing any of their own food, so you can have a designated spot to put it and know what not to make on your end.

Once you have finalized how big or small the meal will be, you need to narrow down the kind of food being served. This is the fun part of all the menu planning.

One of our favorite options for buffet-style dining is a charcuterie board. You can easily make a stunning charcuterie board into a centerpiece for your buffet table. This is a great quick small bite offering so guests can grab and go as they please.

If you plan on serving some bubbly (which we always recommend) and are looking for some menu ideas, check out our article dedicated to food and Champagne pairings for some fun and unique celebratory food ideas.

80/20 Rule

When it comes to setting up food serving stations at home, many professional chefs and restaurant owners recommend the 80/20 Rule. This means that when you are serving food buffet style, you should serve 80% cold food and 20% hot food.

This specific ratio encourages variety and takes the pressure off the host since they can leave the food without tending to it the whole event.

Setting the Scene: 10 Easy Steps

Now that the menu is all planned and prepared, you can begin to set up your decorations and buffet table.

The most important part of your buffet table is its accessibility. The whole point is to feed people easily without sacrificing aesthetics. What is the best way to achieve this? We have the easiest tips and tricks to help you build the best food buffet table yet. Here are ten ways to build your buffet table like a pro.

1: Location, Location, Location

The first step to building your buffet table is to figure out where to put it. It seems easy enough, but the right location for your buffet table can make or break your next party.

The most crucial part is an entry point and an exit point. Otherwise, diners might get caught in traffic as they try to grab food and move out of the way. You want a designated area that flows well so your partygoers can come and go throughout the evening.

2: Keep It Simple

You don’t need to spend a significant amount of money to create an effective buffet table. Don’t bother with the expensive hassle of trying to find a new table just for your event. Any table will work well with the right planning.

Our recommendation is just to use a small folding table and decorate it with a fun and festive tablecloth. Here at Ohza, we are all about the little details, especially ones with pops of color!

3: Add Height and Dimension

One easy way to make your buffet table seem fancier is by adding texture here and there. You can easily do this by elevating certain dishes on your table, much like you would do with a centerpiece.

This adds dimension to your table and makes it seem more decked out. Plus, adding height helps the flow of traffic move along better. There’s more to choose from, so people keep moving around.

4: Dedication to Your Dishes

It’s easy for basic things to slip your mind when scrambling to get everything together for a party. One thing you don’t want to forget, though, is labeling your dishes for the event.

Labeling your dishes is a great way to ensure all your guests feel seen and counted for, especially guests with food allergies and strong preferences. Just add little tags, so your friends know which dish is which.

5: Choosing a Color Palette

A simple, effective way to dress up any space is by incorporating a specific color or a theme. This is especially effective for a buffet space.

Pick a palette that reflects the mood or vibe of the party. You can also keep this in mind when crafting the aesthetic of your table and deciding what to wear to your event.

6: Stock Up the Small Things

No matter what food you are serving, it’s important to have plenty of plates and napkins stocked and ready to go. You can truly never have too many plates because people tend to put down their plates and then lose track of them. Set as many out as you can to avoid extra mess and spillage.

7: Use Rows

Organizing your food and snacks in neat rows helps make your buffet both more aesthetically pleasing and more accessible. The rows help keep everything organized and in one place. It’s a great way to keep everything separated yet still in one place, plus it looks really clean.

It’s also important to remember to separate your foods from your drinks—again, not only for aesthetics but accessibility. The easiest way to fix this is by simply separating the two. Keep your bar and drink station in a separate area, or get a separate table for it altogether.

8: Get Creative

One of the best things about a buffet table is that creativity can flourish. When putting out your food, using the right vessel can really up the ante on the aesthetic of your table.

If you are really trying to impress your guests, try switching up the glassware on the foods you're serving. Put the hors d'oeuvres in mason jars, martini glasses, or tasting cups. Switching the glassware up is a simple way to make a stunning impression.

9: Less Is More

While we love variety and encourage it in every aspect of life, you may want to reign it in with your buffet table. Having options is a wonderful thing, but you want to ensure that you don’t overwhelm your guests. Stick to a simple flavor profile and build off of that, but don’t go overboard with it.

10: Save Utensils for Last

Keep your utensils at the end of the buffet. This helps cut down on how much plasticware or silverware you are using since people will be more selective of their cutlery if they already have their plate stacked.

People tend to grab silverware “just in case” when it's stocked at the front of the line. Having it at the end helps save you some silverware.

Sources:

5 Tips for Setting Up a Great Buffet | Kitchn

How to plan your menu | BBC Good Food

Determine How Much Food Per Person Is Enough at a Party | The Spruce

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