How to Display Food on a Buffet

Follow these four tips on how to spotlight delicious food options on a buffet.

When executed properly, a buffet offers something delicious for everyone. Unfortunately, most buffets run into shortcomings that take the spotlight away from the food. Whether it’s an unsafe approach, an unattractive presentation, or a poorly planned layout, there are a lot of logistical hurdles to jump when putting a buffet together. 

In this guide, we’ve shared how to display food on a buffet with four common-sense tips.

Assess Crowd Movement in the Space

Buffets are a people magnet, so it’s important to strategize the layout beforehand. First, there should be ample space around the buffet table, because people tend to hang out around the action before and after getting food. This can easily block the flow of traffic if you’re not careful. Meanwhile, you should mark the start and end of the buffet, so that it’s obvious where the line should form and which way traffic should flow. If you place the dining tables away from the buffet table, you’ll create more of an incentive for people to spread out and enjoy the full space.

Arrange the Buffet in a Natural Way

Just like how you approach the layout of your space, the buffet items should be arranged so that they “flow” for diners. First, you should stack plates in an easy-to-reach place where the buffet line begins. Next, foods should be grouped together when it makes sense, such as hors d’oeuvres, salads, cold dishes, hot dishes, and desserts. At the end of the buffet line, you can stack cutlery and napkins so that guests don’t have to hold them awkwardly while serving themselves food.

Separate the Food and Drink Tables

Next, we recommend creating a standalone drink station for water, coffee, and other beverages. It’s difficult to carry a full plate of food and pour a drink at the same time, so it makes sense to separate the two. This will speed up the line for both tables, and it will be easier for guests to refill their drink during the meal. If you place the drink table in another section of the room, it will disperse the crowd even more.

Consider Food Safety and Basic Cleanliness

Finally, you should use holding equipment that ensures food freshness and safe temperatures throughout an entire service. To keep food warm and fresh while on the buffet line, it’s important to use waterless food wells that will hold food to a consistent temperature and food quality to help increase your bottom line. A typical buffet exposes food to harsh, inconsistent temperatures as well as airflow, steam and other harmful conditions. Such conditions will decrease food quality and increase food costs caused by shrinkage and waste. Alto-Shaam's food wells use energy-efficient Halo Heat® technology that gently surrounds the food. Halo Heat's waterless design reduces or eliminates many costs including installation, water, pluming, electricity, deliming and more.

For basic cleanliness, you should have enough trash cans for diners to discard their plates, so that they don’t leave them scattered on the tables.

Learn more about waterless food wells at A Taste of Alto-Shaam demonstration. 

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