When planning your next buffet, you want to get everything perfect. You work on the guest list, the food you will serve, and even the decorations. When it is time to set everything out for your guests to eat, you may be curious about how many buffet tables you will need.
You will need three buffet tables for your next gathering, as long as you have enough room for all three, as well as some supplemental tables for dishes and other small dinnerware. The three basic tables that you will need are:
- A main table
- A drink table
- A dessert table
This helps to separate out the food you have and can allow for the free-flow that you need for the gathering. If you are limited on space, you can combine a few of the tables to make it work. Let’s take a closer look at how to set up the buffet tables for your next gathering to really impress your guests.
How Many Buffet Tables Do I Need?
The exact number of buffet tables you need will depend on how many people you plan to serve at your next gathering. If you are looking to have a really large gathering, you will need more than at a small gathering.
As mentioned, it is important to have at least three buffet tables for each gathering that you plan to throw. These three buffet tables will include:
- A main table: This will hold onto the plates, cutlery, and all the main dishes.
- A drink table: This will hold onto all of the drinks along with the cups your guests will need.
- A dessert table: This table should be last and will hold onto all the desserts you offer.
For the larger gatherings, you can have several tables for each of these categories if necessary. When you are limited on space or have a smaller number of people coming to the event, then these three tables will be plenty to help sort the food and make it look nice.
What to Put on Your Main Buffet Table
First you need to focus on your main table. This one needs to be placed away from the wall so that the guests have access on both sides. This table will include all the things your guests need first, with everything in order to make it easier.
On the main table, you will need to follow a certain order to help keep things flowing easily and to avoid a lot of backward motions or a longer line. A good setup to consider includes:
- Start with the plates and bowls
- Starters and salads should follow
- All the main dishes you plan to serve
- Add the cutlery at the end along with the napkins
Any of the ladles, serving spoons, and tongs should be on trays near the dish they are meant to help serve. This can prevent any messes later on. Leaving the cutlery until the end may seem counterintuitive, but it allows your guests to have their hands free to serve themselves as they go through the line.
The Drinks Table: Ideas
Ideally, you will have enough room to place the drinks on their own separate table, along with the cups and any ice as well. If you are short on room, you can place them on the main table, but put them after all the items we already discussed.
When putting together your drinks table, you need to consider all the items that your guests will need to help with their drinks. Some of the items that go well on the drinks table includes:
- Cups and glasses to hold the drinks. Consider different sizes and shapes to accommodate the age and ability of those attending the party.
- Ice in case someone would like to add that
- The actual drinks themselves, whether they be in an ice bucket or premade in large drink dispensers, such as infused fruit water.
For buffets that will have a type of wine present, you may want to keep them inside an ice bucket to ensure they stay cool and fresh. Think about the drinks that you would like to offer. When having kids at the event, try to save room for a kids drink table and an adults drink table to avoid problems.
The Dessert Table: Where You Can Make an Impression
The third table you should add is the dessert table. Giving this part of the meal its own space allows you some room for artistic flair. This table does not need to be big to be beautiful but can add some fun to your next party.
When you are laying out the parts of your dessert table, there is an order that you can consider following for best results:
- Have all the plates out first
- Add the desserts to the back or right behind the plates
- Silverware and napkins should be last
Try to keep the dessert put away until your guests are ready to eat them. This will keep the dessert fresh, rather than having it out in the open and potentially getting bad before anyone has a chance to eat them.
Do I Need More Than Three Buffet Tables?
For larger parties, it may be a good idea to consider more than three buffet tables. This can help speed up the lines and can allow for more food to go onto the table for a larger guest list. Three tables can be a good starting point, but you can add more tables per category if necessary.
The number of tables that you should use for your buffet will depend on a few factors including:
- How many people are going to be present
- How much food you will serve
- How much space is available
If you have a limited amount of space to set up the buffet tables, you may need to limit yourself to two tables. When you have the space though, it is a good idea to add more tables to make the buffet easier to use.
How Many Items Should I Have at My Buffet?
As you are setting up your buffet, you may wonder how many choices you should provide. This can be a tricky question because you want to make sure everyone has lots of choices to eat, but you do need to consider the space and the cost as well.
The more variety, the happier your guests so try not to limit yourself too much. If you are planning out the meal, some good things to consider include:
- Main entrée or meat: Plan for 8 ounces for each guest.
- Side dishes: Each guest will take about 6 ounce servings if you offer three side dishes
- Fruit: Have one cup per person
- Bread or rolls: Plan on about two per guest
- Salad: Plan on 1 cup per person
- Dessert: One piece of cake for guests
If you are uncertain how much to provide, then put out at least six to eight items. This is enough to allow lots of choices for all the guests without having to make too much food for the buffet.
A good rule to plan by is that each adult will consume around a pound of food total and children will take in half a pound. You can keep this in mind while planning out your food. The more food you provide, the less of each thing you need.
Getting Prepared for Your Buffet
Ultimately, the number of buffet tables will depend on the amount of space that you have and how many guests you have present for the party. Three tables is a great way to move the line along and provide some natural separation so the items are not put too closely together. Do what works in your space and have a great party!