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7 Tips for a Great Buffet on a Budget

A successful buffet takes a little planning but with these great hints and tips, your guests will love the array of delicious food on offer. And better still, your budget won’t be stretched too far either!

An important part of any party of celebration is the food and drink. You want your guests to walk away from your party having enjoyed a range of food and drink but, it is the part that most hosts worry about. Will you have enough? Is there enough choice?

These seven tips will give you a head start.

TIP 1 – Numbers

Buffets are usually planned on a per guest basis. So to stop you worrying about whether you have enough or not, you need to have a fairly accurate idea of how many guests are attending.

But here’s the thing, even with RSVPs asked for by a certain date, the likelihood is that just as you are planning a buffet for a certain number, you will have a flurry of replies bumping up the numbers more.

Most caterers suggest catering for the number of invites you sent out plus an extra 3 to 5 on top. Having an idea of numbers will also help you decide how many paper plates, napkins and other party catering supplies you’ll need to buy.

TIP 2 – Simplicity is key

Buffets are a way of guests eating together informally. Essentially, food needs to be kept simple with small, bite-sized portions, as in ‘finger food’.

Planning the menu itself is the fun part;

  • Offer meat, cheese and egg sandwiches on a variety of bread types and cut into small wedges so people can pick them up easily. Remember to keep combinations classic.
  • Other finger food usually includes some kind of savoury pastry such as the classic sausage roll and its vegetarian equivalent.
  • Rice or couscous dishes are also a fantastic addition to the buffet menu

TIP 3 – Consider intolerance, allergies and cultural issues

We are becoming more aware of food intolerances and allergies, as well as cultural and religious implications for food.

Not only that, it is considered to be good food hygiene to keep some dishes and ingredients apart from each other. Cross-contamination happens when the same utensil is used to serve a range of dishes.

Group meat dishes together, as well as keeping fish items together too. Ensure that any vegetarian dishes are kept away from the meat and fish, with utensils for each platter of food.

TIP 4 – Label Platters

The buffet may look delicious with some platters of food obvious as to what they are. But quite often, guests are put off by not knowing what they are eating.

Label your platters of food clearly, and if there are ingredients that need to be flagged up – e.g. contains nuts/dairy etc. – make sure that these are clearly visible too.

TIP 5 – Set it out logically

There is a logical sequence to how we gather food at a buffet. The savoury dishes should be at one end, with easy to pick up food at the start with other items, e.g. salad, rice salads etc, towards the centre of the table.

Desserts, fruit and cheese platters should be at the end of the table or, if possible, away from the savoury table.

TIP 6 – Serving utensils

Ensure that there are enough serving utensils throughout the buffet table. The one thing that really stumps people is not having the right kind of utensil to pick up food etc.

If possible, you don’t want people touching the food or using their own fork or spoon etc. In some cases, this leads to ‘double dipping’, something that can make some dishes unpalatable to others!

TIP 7 – Plenty of supplies on hand

Encouraging people to use the serving utensils and not their own is best encouraged by placing the utensils at the furthest end of the table. In other words, when they have a full plate of food, the select their cutlery etc.

Other party catering supplies such as plates and serviettes should be at the start of the buffet. In fact, it is a signal to guests that wherever the plates are is the start of the queue for food!

And finally…

Laying out the buffet is an important part of making it look attractive. For example, instead of offering a bowl of salad leaves and chopped tomatoes, use these as garnishes on plates of sandwiches and other dishes.

And keep the buffet table organised and tidy. This helps to maintain the appearance of the buffet, which is something that your guest will appreciate.

Stuck for buffet menu ideas? Take a look at some of these delicious menu options.