5 Tips for a Dinner Party Buffet at Home

published May 22, 2015
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(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

I love having friends over for dinner, and I’m lucky enough that I have the space to have six people around the table in my Brooklyn kitchen. But six people can still be a tight squeeze, so I almost always set the food up buffet-style. It gives everyone a little more room at the table, and it makes it easier for me to clean up later.

We’ve shown you how to plan a buffet for a large gathering, like a wedding, but I have a few tips that are important for smaller dinner parties.

(Image credit: Cobblestone Rue)

1. Keep the food simple.

There’s a reason the build-your-own theme works so well for buffets. As the host you are mostly just prepping ingredients and not full recipes, plus it solves the problem of picky eaters by letting everyone choose their own foods. From sliders to tacos to grilled cheese, the ideas for this kind of buffet are nearly endless.

(Image credit: A Soft Place to Land)

2. Make silverware easy to carry.

This is especially important if you’re eating in a different room from where the buffet is located. Make sure guests can grab silverware with one hand, and not have to pick up individual pieces separately. The fewer things to balance the better.

(Image credit: Veronica Yem)

3. Label everything!

Buffets are ideal for parties where you’re building your own meal. I’ve hosted choose-your-own grilled cheese parties and build-your-own grain bowl book clubs. But if the crowd is any larger than four or five, it’s important to label what each item is, so there’s clarity for anyone with food allergies, and so you don’t have to repeat the menu over and over again. I love the idea of using butcher paper to cover the buffet table and label everything. Plus, it might be the easiest for post-party cleanup.

(Image credit: Heather Bullard)

4. Make creative use of other spaces.

When I host, I have the buffet and dining table in the same room (mostly because that’s my only option), but if you have outdoor space, make use of that as well. You can also use a table in your living room or family room for an appetizer buffet if that’s where people will be congregating before the meal.

(Image credit: Intimate Weddings)

5. Don’t forget a buffet for drinks, too!

The buffet doesn’t have to be just for the food! Depending on what kind of drinks you’re serving, you can set up a bar with garnishes and glasses. We love this mimosa bar for brunch, but you could just as easily do the same thing with sangria or other punch-like cocktails.

What are your favorite buffet menus and concepts for dinner parties at home?