Ideas for Buffet

by mandeesears

Beautiful buffet tables are something guests remember. Designing a buffetscape is not as hard as you might think. These suggestions and ideas will inspire your ideas for buffets.

Ideas for Buffet | Buffetscapes

Veggie Basket

Self catering a party or event is a huge task but it can be done with style and elegance. You can create a buffet table or buffet stations your guests will remember for a long time to come using some tried and true tips from chefs and caterers.

I have been decorating buffet tables for years and still get a kick out of coming up with unique and different decor items to incorporate with the food offerings. Decorating a buffet with a theme is my favorite!

Themed Buffet Ideas

Lots of events and, subsequently, your buffets revolve around a theme. Use this to your advantage when choosing serving pieces and decor for your buffet table. Add items that complement your theme. For instance, for the following themes, see the list of possible decor and serving pieces you could incorporate:

Themed Buffets

  • Picnic theme -- gingham fabric or linens draped over risers, napkin lined baskets with an assortment of breads, picnic baskets with florals peeking out, ant or lady bug figurines, thermoses, ivy or greenery filling in blank spaces or covering fabric changes...
  • Garden theme -- use new gardening gloves draped over a new planter with a trowel and hand rake sticking out, watering cans with some flowers in them, a wide brimmed hat elevated on a topiary form, mini wheel barrow or flower cart filled with silverware, napkins or dinner rolls, serve your vegetables in a basket rather than on a platter...
  • Beach theme -- Serve shrimp in a clam shell dish filled with ice and spilling out onto another tray with borders covered with a blue napkin and then ice, use sea shells, contained sand, sandcastle figurines, mini beach chairs and umbrellas, have wine sitting in colorful metal buckets, beach bride and groom figurine... 

image credit: Tracy Hunter

More Themed Buffet Ideas

 Paris themes -- Definitely incorporate the Eiffel Tower. Add the Arc de Triomphe, French berets, an artisits palette and brushes, red geraniums, street signs, small framed photos of Notre Dame, the Louvre, tabletop topiary trees...

Covered Wagon Buffet

Hollywood themes -- Director's megaphone, clapboards, film strip, film canisters, "Hollywood" sign, stars, Oscar-like awards, crystals for bling, top hats, bow ties, mini director's chair, boas, vintage cameras...

Wild West themes -- Try using lassos, cowboy boots, granite-ware plates, bandanas, old coffee pots, campfire display using led lights for the flame, cowboy figurine, cowboy hat, lanterns, spurs, moonshine jugs and more. If you get real industrious, make your buffet table into a covered wagon like the one pictured above.  image credit: Mandee Sears ©2006

Utilizing Decorating Basics on your Buffet


Add height to your buffet table by using tiered serving pieces or by creating risers out of sturdy items like cans, boxes or books and then covering them in linens or fabric that complements your theme.  

Create peaks and valleys with your risers and then insert silk ivy or greenery at the base to give it a more sophisticated look. Use silk ivy garland to decorate tiered stands and serving pieces. Add some florals for texture and color. 

Layer items. For example, for a vintage travel theme, lean an old map against a mini suitcase or use luggage tags leaned against the dishes as menu identifiers. 

Using these decorating basics will turn your buffet into a show piece.


image credit: Tracy Hunter

Have you decorated a buffet table before?

Keeping Food Cold On a Buffet - Keeping Food Hot on a Buffet

Catering How-To

Making a beautiful buffetscape should not take precedence over keeping your guests safe from food-borne illness. Luckily, there are some products that marry the two concepts. 

Cold foods (especially dairy or mayo based) need to be kept below 40 degrees F (4 degrees C) or lower. Hot foods should be held at 140 degrees F (60 degrees C) or higher to keep them in a safe range. 

Keeping foods cold on a buffet is top priority as well as using catering dishes to keep foods hot on a buffet so everyone has a wonderful time! 

More Buffetscape Resources

Ideas for Buffet Tables
All of us have seen a buffet table that was less than inspiring. It was set in a utilitarian fashion -- line 'em up and feed 'em

How to Build a Simple Buffetscape
n this example, my event is a cocktails and hors d’oeurves get together in my home. I am going use a tropical theme. Below is a list of the menu and the serving dish I will use for each:

Self Catering Tips and Tricks
People are always asking me how to keep hot food hot and cold food cold, but stylishly. They don't want to line up

Updated: 05/20/2014, mandeesears
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ForestBear on 08/14/2011

Lots of great ideas here. Think I'll do the beach theme, sounds fabulous. Thank you for sharing

Guest on 06/17/2011

Love the chuck wagon. You are so clever. Another great party planning page. Thanks for sharing all your tips with us.

WebWriter on 06/08/2011

Reading this makes me want to throw a party.

mandeesears on 06/02/2011

Cynthia -- we learn from each other my friend! Your horse cupcakes would look great on the covered wagon! LOL

Towanda - It's one of my favorites too since mom and I did it together!

Sylvestermouse on 06/01/2011

I have always hosted parties, teas, luncheons, showers, etc and I have to say, over the last few months, you have taught me several things about setting up a buffet table. Soooo many things I wish I had known, or thought of, before. My favorite new buffet piece actually happens to be a three tiered serving piece :)

nightbear on 06/01/2011

It really is an art form. It is so appealing to walk into a gorgeous buffet. Well done.

mandeesears on 06/01/2011

Thanks Spook and Diane. It is an art form!

Dianne on 06/01/2011

Coming up with a gorgeous buffet table design looks like fun! I'm keeping some of your ideas in mind.

Spook on 06/01/2011

Wonderful ideas and great concepts. It's an art form.

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