How to Plan a Birthday Buffet Dinner for 40 People

Updated April 17, 2017

The best way to host a great birthday buffet dinner for 40 people is to plan it impeccably. There is no substitute for planning, as weeks of preparation go into making one dinner at your place a success, especially if you are entertaining a group as big as 40. As soon as you decide to hold a birthday buffet dinner for your family and loved ones, be prepared to invest a lot of effort, time and money till the dinner becomes a party everyone raves about.

Decide if the buffet is going to be a sit-down buffet or a standing one so that the menu can be arranged accordingly. The latter will help you save space and may be the best option for 40 people. For a standing buffet you will need a separate table for the cake cutting.

Brainstorm the menu for the buffet dinner. It is practical to opt for finger-sized food and dinner items that can be eaten without needing to be cut with a knife so that people can handle their plates while standing. It is also more convenient to opt for a birthday cupcake tower instead of a large cake as cupcakes can be eaten easily while standing.

Prepare to order one extra dish for every six guests so that those who want to eat more than average can eat comfortably. The cake order must also be placed with the same concept as some people will go back for second servings. It is best to discuss this with the baker before placing the order.

Set up the buffet dinner along the sideboard or on the dinner table. Think of comfortable arrangements where the food and drinks are accessible to all the guests. The cake must be placed in a separate location so that everyone can gather around it easily for the cake-cutting ceremony.

Work on the time line of the appetizers and main dishes followed by more courses and desserts served at the birthday buffet dinner. Aim to start serving the first course within an hour of when all the guests have arrived. It is best to have one extra dessert besides the cake in case someone is not able to eat the cake due to allergies or personal preferences.

Make sure that the meal will be cooked on time or will arrive on time, if you're ordering from a restaurant. Make sure the bakery will deliver the cake on time, or if someone is picking it up that they will do so well in time.

Clear out the venue of the birthday buffet dinner so that you know how much space you have for decorations and set-up.

Arrange all the serving dishes and the side dishes on the buffet table to gauge if you will be needing more utensils or more serving space. Account for extra plates and forks for the cake.


Ask a friend to help you with the planning of the buffet dinner for 40 people. Go through every detail of the buffet dinner, such as fresh towels in the washroom, in order to avoid last-minute panic attacks. Some bakers will frost the cake at the venue to avoid damaging it during transport.

Things You'll Need

  • Specifics of the buffet venue
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About the Author

Nida Rasheed has been writing for online businesses since 2008. She specializes in topics such as health, fitness, pet care, travel and home improvement. Rasheed studied social sciences at Lahore University of Management Sciences.