wedding buffet table

How to Decorate Buffet Food Tables

If you’re hosting an event and are unsure how to serve food and drinks, you can never go wrong with a catered buffet-style setup. Buffets are great for any event such as a wedding reception, birthday party, or all other special occasions.

Buffet tables are easy to set up, and will require less catering staff since guests will be able to serve themselves. Also, with a buffet set-up, guests can get the amount of food that they will eat, producing less food waste from your event.

Since guests would be moving to and from the buffet several times during the event, buffet table decorations will take a big part in the overall look and feel of your event. You can easily dress up buffet tables or food stations to coordinate with your chosen theme or style.

What does a catering event mean?

buffet table

A catering event is an occasion where food is served to guests using buffet tables or designated food stations, especially during big gatherings such as weddings, or corporate functions. These events usually require the services of a server for the buffet and often, several cooks. Event caterers are responsible for taking orders from their offered menu at least a few weeks before the event. Usually, the event hosts can directly place orders, or they do so through event coordinators.

Catering can be either on-site where cooks prepare meals if the event venue has its own kitchen, or off-site where the catering service prepares food in their own kitchens and transports the food to the venue. If you have just started in the events planning industry, it is helpful to source possible catering services in advance, so you have a go-to caterer option when you offer your events coordinating services to your clients.

Do caterers provide linens?

Whether or not caterers provide linens for buffet tables depends on the catering style, options include:

1. Drop-and-go catering

drop and go buffet

This is the most basic catering service, and as the name suggests, they simply drop off food trays and leave. This kind of catering service is least expensive because they only provide the food, leaving you to decorate the food tables and guest tables, as well as the entire venue.

For this kind of catering set-up, you have a lot of opportunity to incorporate your theme to the buffet table design. From buffet set-up tablecloths to table napkins, you can decide how simple or elaborate your decorations will be.

2. Food trucks

food truck

This kind of set-up typically only provides basic paper plates, napkins, and cutlery, and is more appropriate for less formal gatherings. Some food trucks offer simple tables and chairs, but they mostly just provide on-site food preparation services and very minimal styling. 

3. Full Service Catering

buffet table

This service varies by caterer, but it can include providing the food, providing tables, chairs, tablecloths, and serveware, styling the event, serving food and drinks to guests and cleaning and taking down after the event.

Some full service catering also offer events coordination, events styling, venue scouting, and preparation of other party essentials such as invitations, souvenir kits, etc.

How do you save on catering?

If table linens, serveware, and drinkware are not included in the catering package, consider setting the tables yourself. This especially works if you are already in the event planning industry, and you want to have a more hands-on role in the event stylings. More importantly,  buying tablecloths is more economical as it is a good investment because you can easily clean, store and reuse them again for future events. Thus, it is important to purchase quality, yet affordable linens because this will benefit you and your business in the long run.

outdoor buffet table

Setting the tables for the guests will require tablecloths, table overlays or table runners, napkins, service plates and table skirts, and buffet cloths for the food tables. Make sure to stock up on these and look for exclusive deals and discounts here at CV Linens

How do you make a buffet look good?

Buffet tables are often set-up along walls of an event venue, surrounding the event venue. When decorating buffet tables, you have to consider the overall theme, including buffet table decorations and buffet backdrops, as well as the table setting for guest tables.

Catering table linens are the easiest way to enhance the tables. Rectangular stretch spandex covers are the easiest to use as they are easy to clean and practically wrinkle-free because of the stretch properties.

sweet buffet bar

If multiple tables are pushed together, overlapping rectangular tablecloths work best, so make sure to have enough tablecloths in tow. Polyester linens are easiest to use because not only are they cheap and versatile, but also, white tablecloths are also a classic option. 

Depending on the type of event you can go even further by adding a table skirt or swagging fabric over the skirt using fabric rolls or tables skirts and skirt table clips. Watch this video for a simple table skirting how-to that will transform plain rectangular tables into an eye-catching masterpiece.

 Use overlay table-toppers to bring a pop of color as well as provide protection from food spills, acrylic centerpieces or loose faux florals will add contrast to your food trays. To protect guests from hot food chafers and add style to the buffet table, try tying a napkin on the handles.

Marquee Decoration Photo Credits: Pearl Marquees

                                                                              Photo Credit: Pearl Marquees

You may also add more dimension to the food and dessert tables by adding a mixture of layers or levels using acrylic stands or cake stands to add height.

If you are placing silverware at the buffet food table, place it at the end of the table so guests have a free hand as they serve themselves.. You may also include place cards next to the food with the name of the food dish as well as short dietary information for the guests, i.e. labels such as “Vegan,” “Dairy-Free,” “Contains Nuts,” etc.

Buffet table backdrops create a focal point to the food tables. Use matching backdrop drapes or floral backdrops, depending on your theme. Most event planners keep buffet table backdrops uniform with the rest of the wall-to-wall drapes, and just add subtle elements such as sheer double draping or LED-lights to highlight the food station.

Guest tables decor should also be coherent with the color and theme of the events. Make sure to not overcrowd the table decorations. Choose a candelabra centerpiece, or a floral or balloon set-up, and use charger plates as placeholders which also double as a decorative element on the tables. For more quick tips on catering events, check out this Buffet Place Setting Etiquette

Buffet tables are a popular and easy way to serve food to guests, especially for big events. Make sure to plan ahead on how to decorate your set-up to match the overall theme or color combinations. Remember to incorporate key decorative elements and have fun in the process!

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