Serving food "help yourself style" is by far the most popular form of food and beverage service for today's entertaining. Buffet style service is a boon to events ranging from kickback casual to elegantly formal. Here are some basic (and very flexible) rules for operating a socially correct and smoothly operating bar or buffet table "du jour."
When to Use Buffets
Buffet style is helpful to utilise a space where seating will be limited and guests may find it less challenging to eat standing, leaning, perching or even on the move. It also allows guests to choose from a varied selection of foods even when adequate table seating is available to them. Use buffet service to create a casual, "eat-whenever-you-wish" situation at an open house event or to facilitate tasting and sampling events.
If a buffet meal is being served to guests who will eat standing, it's key that the food line move along rapidly. Place utensils and napkins at the end of the buffet line. By picking up these extra items last, guests escape the need to juggle utensils, napkins and plates during food selection. Serve only finger, fork or toothpick foods. Place plenty of napkins and towelettes in easy-to-reach spots for guests---especially if your menu includes barbecued items. Pass extra helpings of food to standing room only guests and save them the hassle of working their way back to the buffet table, only to stand in line again.
Another trendy form of serving buffet style is called "grazing" since it sends guests roaming from table to table, helping themselves to a bevy of foods. These concepts are especially ideal for fund raising events, casino parties and exhibits where you want to leave the space free for roaming, auction action or gambling.
Instead of one long stand in line, the grazing system requires guests to queue up for several mini-lines. Grazing stations, each offering a totally different menu, can be arranged in a mazelike traffic flow resulting in a light entertainment concept as well as convenient food service. Chefs can add drama and adventure at each station as they create their culinary specialities.
A fix-it-yourself grazing station might feature one of the following: beverages, salads, sandwiches and soups, entrées or desserts. Guests serve themselves the ingredients of specific meal courses, using their imagination in building concoctions that might be a giant taco, a meal-in-itself antipasto salad or a gastronomical chilli dog.
Examples of Buffet Bars
An appetizer bar provides a full array of bite-size hot and cold munchies to appease appetites of all sizes. A potato bar offers baked, French fried and mashed potatoes with dozens of tasty toppings. A pasta bar includes noodles, sauces, vegetables, meats, cheeses and Italian breads. A fondue bar offers cubes of fresh vegetables, meats and seafood varieties, ready to be cooked in oil-filled fondue pots, then seasoned and sauced. Fondue also makes a fantastic finale of delicious fresh fruits and cake squares dipped into melted chocolate, then rolled in crushed nuts, coconut, whipped cream and topped (or kabobbed) off with a cherry. A crepe bar includes freshly flipped (on the spot) crepes to be filled with a variety of sauces and ingredients to make elegant entrées and scrumptious roll-up desserts.
Buffet Best Bet
An absolute must for eating at a crowded party is a combination food and drink holder. This utensil makes it easy for guests to meet, shake hands, move around as well as eat and drink. One version is constructed of reusable plastic designed to hold food in addition to a stem glass or cup. A less expensive "few times use" style is of sturdy chipboard and acts as a tray, holding a plate on its surface and beverage container in its cut-out recesses. The latter product, which comes in several stock designs can be imprinted with a logo or event name and serve as a souvenir of the event. The holders made of Lucite or Melamite are a good investment.