Originating in 16th-century Sweden when a smorgasbord was laid out alongside shots of schnapps at celebrations, the buffet line has long dominated F&B lineups at events. Whether the setting is formal or casual, the appeal of a buffet is simple: You can accommodate a large number of guests without having to serve everyone at seated tables. Try these four classic and contemporary tips for maximizing your buffet.
Start with the basics.
Large gatherings can be awkward if attendees don’t know one another, come from similar cultures or speak the same language. A classic buffet move is to set up the food table to lead traffic toward the bar. Better yet, a four-sided buffet/bar table combo (shown) makes mingling easier and has room for internal shelving for drink storage.
Incorporate human interaction.
“People like to see their food being prepared and interact with the chefs,” says Margaret Teskey, president of Taste Catering & Event Planning. A popular option is sous vide cooking, where food is prepared in a precise, temperature-controlled water bath, then seared on a hot grill or skillet to finish. “People are wowed by this technique; it’s so simple, but super impressive to watch.”
Put a twist on tradition.
Teskey likes to create multilevel surfaces by placing smaller shelves atop the buffet. This increases serving capacity without sacrificing space. To up the wow factor, consider using a mini table made of ice for a cocktail hour buffet. It will keep the glasses and mixers cold all night.
Use food carts for deliveries.
This idea is borrowed from dim sum service in Chinese restaurants and eliminates the need for servers replenishing chaffing dishes. A planner for an insurance company recently used this option for a breakfast buffet of 40 guests. An egg dish was prepared in cast-iron skillets to retain heat and then wheeled over to the buffet table.