The Best Buffet Table Food Display Ideas

Hosting a crowd for the holidays or other celebration? Buffets are best when the guest list is on the longer side. Whether it’s arranged on a kitchen island or a banquet table, you want your food presentation to wow your guests. Here are some buffet table food display ideas to make an impression—no matter how big or small the guest list.

The Importance of Buffet Table Food Displays

You’ve probably heard the term, “presentation is everything.” Well, it’s especially true when you are creating a buffet-style event. There are as many reasons to opt for a buffet: cost-savings, efficiency of serving, you can offer more food items, and even lend a certain vibe to the affair.  The buffet table itself can even serve as a centerpiece to your event. But the main goal is to display your food in an enticing manner and have it be easily seen and easy to reach.

Five Buffet Table Food Display Ideas

Here’s some inspiration for your next catering event or party.

Elevate Displays With Tiered Stands: The easiest way to elevate your food displays is to, well, elevate your food. You want food to be seen—especially in the back of the table display. Think of ways to place food higher. Acrylic risers help increase food’s visibility and accessibility on a buffet table as well as save space. The display doesn’t detract from the focus of the food. You can also place a stack of sturdy books, and overturned bowl, a square vase, or even a yoga block under the tablecloth to create height. Risers should match the style or them of the occasion. Wood for more rustic, casual events; mirrored and acrylic to add a touch of glamour; and lacquer or colored stands for a modern vibe

Utilize Specialty Serving Displays: An ice cream holder can hold desserts in wafer cones or for a unique spin, fill cone-shaped pieces of wax or Kraft paper with charcuterie-inspired appetizer bites, such as a stack of assorted meats, cheese, olives, and fruits. An acrylic cupcake stand can create a dessert tower or offer up delicate tea sandwiches. Our configurable cupcake stand provides the ability to customize your tiers—assemble up to four tiers or use as four separate pedestals to display appetizers to desserts. And if you’re serving cake pops? There’s a stand for that! While you can lay them on a tray, a cake pop display will save space on the table and draw attention to the sweet treats.

Group Foods by Category:  Sure, you want to keep hot foods with the hot and cold foods with the cold, but you also want to create order for the guest at the buffet. Start with the beginning of a meal—appetizers and salads—and then present cold dishes, then room temperature dishes, then hot dishes. Within that order, you can further organize. A basket of crackers next to a platter of cheeses; cold pasta salad next to a tossed salad; side dishes following main dishes.

Utilize Colors to Complement the Food: Investing in colored dishes and serving platters can be an expensive proposition. Instead, place white plates on colored pedestals to add some pizazz to your buffet.  Choose a color that coordinates with your celebration’s theme, such as pink for a Barbiecore-themed Sweet 16 or black and silver for a New Year’s Eve soiree. Another way to add color to your buffet table food display ideas is to group your food by color. Place cut-up fruit in food grade acrylic cylinders or squares for a visual feast. Think pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, grapes, etc.

Offer Individual Bites: Arrange food in small bites. It helps with portion control and is trendy, too. Ideas include chicken satay in a shooter glass with a dipping sauce on the bottom; veggies with hummus dip or tortellini skewers with pesto sauce. Tasting spoons (they look like mini ladels) can hold tomato sauce with a single fried ravioli or cocktail sauce and shrimp. For larger portions, you can use mason jars (think mini seven-layer dip or chilled tomato soup topped with a grill cheese square). Works great for mini desserts, too, such as chocolate mousse, fruit, cheesecake parfaits, etc.

Important Buffet Table Decor Considerations

A successful buffet table food display needs more than just food. Keep the following in mind.

Clear Labeling:  Food labels help guests know what the menu choices are and quickly make a decision to keep the buffet line moving. The signs can also help a guest determine the ingredients of a dish if they have food allergies or any dietary restrictions. There are various options for food labels: tent cards, chalkboard signs, acrylic sign holders, small mirrors with the food choices written with dry erase markers. You can even use Kraft paper as a “tablecloth” and write the food names in front of each serving dish. Choose a labeling strategy that fits the theme and décor of the event.

Location, location, location: Ideally, you want you to have a buffet table against a well to save space. If your guest list is on the larger side, pull he table away from the wall so guests can fill their plates from either side. Just make sure you set out double the utensils the serving utensils.

Food Temperature: As mentioned earlier, you want to arrange the cold food together and the hot food together. A general rule is 80% cold foods and 20% hot foods. This makes it easy to manage the temperature of hot foods to avoid any food handling mishaps.

Mix it up: Mix up the height of your buffet table food displays; Mix up the materials, such as ceramic bowls, stainless utensis, and wooden trivets. Also, mix in some décor to fill in any blank spaces on your table. Consider unscented candles or tealights, seasonal décor (pumpkins, seashells, snow globes, etc.), or sprigs of fresh herbs that complement the main dishes on the table.

Save Space for Utensils and Condiments:  A separate, smaller table or pedestal may work best for accessibility but if that’s not an option, set a tray or basket with napkins, utensils, and condiments at the end of the table. For an efficient flow, place plates at the beginning, food in the center, and utensils at the end of the table.

Add a backdrop:  A custom backdrop with birthday wishes or a spray of balloons for the happy couple will add pizzazz to the theme—and the buffet table.

Add a centerpiece: Flowers and candles on a tiered display come to mind, but it can be as simple as a bowl of fruit or as clever as a framed photo of the guest of honor elevated on a pedestal or riser. Whatever you choose, make sure it doesn’t overwhelm the buffet table food display ideas you worked so hard to create!

shopPOPsdisplays wants to help you create the best buffet table food display ideas for your event. Take a look at our extensive collection of food display cases and call us if you don’t see what you’re looking for or are interested in custom designs.