How to Set Up a Beautiful Buffet Display

Updated February 21, 2017

A successful buffet is about more than just the foods you're serving. Buffet presentation also plays a big role. While different events may call for a different style, you should definitely plan the display rather than simply placing food on the table. It will attract people to the food---and to your catering services. Set up a beautiful buffet display that showcases your culinary skills as well as your eye for design.

Ask about the theme for the buffet or event. This will affect both food choices and the type of design you'll use for setting up. A formal wedding banquet, for example, may have a special colour for the theme, while a child's birthday party may incorporate balloons.

Plan the menu. Keeping in tune with the event's theme, decide what foods you will cook and serve. Choose three main dishes, including a vegetarian one, and a number of side dishes. Think about the order that you want to place these in on the buffet table and whether the foods will need special serving dishes to keep them warm or cool.

Drape the buffet table with a tablecloth. Most people use a white tablecloth, but darker colours may hide the inevitable spills. Choose a colour that fits well with the theme. If you're a caterer, offer your customers a variety of choices.

Use interesting containers to serve your food. Attractive serving dishes will stand out. While there may not be many options for warm dishes, you can change the look for dishes that don't require heat. Consider using glass or crystal for salads and twisted metal or wicker for breads. Smaller containers should hold condiments that people may need.

Spice up the table with accessories. Use a few accessories along the table. Flowers can dress up any table and can create different types of moods depending on the flower. Roses may create an elegant feel, while sunflowers represent a more laid-back approach. Don't limit yourself to flowers, though. You can also use ice sculptures, fruit sculptures, balloons or pictures. It's especially important that these accessories match the theme that you've chosen.

Add interest with different heights on your buffet table design. Presenting your food at the same height can be boring. Instead, use serving dishes that are tall and short. You can also create different heights by incorporating the accessories, such as floral arrangements, into the design.

Things You'll Need

  • Food
  • Serving dishes
  • Tablecloth
  • Table
  • Accessories (e.g. flowers, balloons or sculptures)
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About the Author

Maggie McCormick is a freelance writer. She lived in Japan for three years teaching preschool to young children and currently lives in Honolulu with her family. She received a B.A. in women's studies from Wellesley College.