Buffet Table Set Up, Made Easy

Serving a crowd? Buffet table set up is the way to go and here's how to do it. Easy yips for setting up a buffet table for a party.

Setting up for a nice buffet might sound simple enough, though your efforts could very easily result in a display that looks more chaotic than clever. Avoid confusion and traffic jams in your buffet line by planning ahead. Eliminate the common sight of guests reaching for plates and back-tracking for utensils that they missed along the way. Here are some simple tips for buffet table set up for your next party.


Before your guests can begin to dish up their meal, they will need a plate. Stack plates at one end of the table so that guests have access to these first. Also, if you are using disposable plates remember to choose heavier ones so that the food actually stays on the plate and guests can easily carry them. I have a collection of white dinner plates that I always use when entertaining. It looks a lot nicer (and they are more sturdy) than paper plates. Investing in some simple white plates is a great idea, they will match any party and are a timeless choice.

The Food

Serve dishes that your guests understand and recognize. If you decide to serve a dish that your guests may not be familiar with, create a place card so guests can easily identify the dish. Also, make sure each dish has a coordinating serving utensil so guests can easily (and quickly) dish up their food. If  you have a lot of food but not a lot of space, place the food at different heights. See below for some of my favorite serving pieces.


At the other end of your buffet table (opposite of the plates), place the silverware. Only provide utensils that your guests will need to use. If a knife is not needed, don’t offer one. This will avoid confusion and lighten the carrying load for guests. To make the grab-and-go of the silverware a breeze, wrap each set up in one napkin and secure it with a piece of ribbon or twine. Condensing the utensils and napkin will make it easier for guests to carry their plates to their seats.


Place drinks last on the table (after the silverware), so that they are the last item guests will have to grab before they head towards their seat. The easiest option is to offer pre-poured drinks ready for guests to grab. If guests will be pouring their own drinks, you may want to consider having a separate table for this or at least offer enough room so that guest will be able to set their plate down in order to get their beverage. Glass beverage dispensers are a great option.

Buffets are a great way to serve food for any size gathering as long as they are set up in a functional way. With a table progression that makes sense; plates, food, silverware and then, beverages. Remember that the key is to make it easy and understandable for your guests as they serve themselves. The next time you set your buffet, take a moment to plan your spread and the result will be a more flowing (and happy) buffet line.

Do you have any buffet table set up tips or questions?  Share your them in the comments sections below!

Nee more help before guests arrive? Be sure to read 6 Things your party guests want you to know.

buffet table set up
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