Things You'll Need
Food trays and/or pans
When entertaining more than just a few dinner guests, a buffet table is the simplest way to offer snacks or a meal. It allows your guests to serve themselves, taking as much or as little as they desire. For large gatherings at a rented hall, you can use a smaller staff for a buffet table than would be required for a sit-down meal. For smaller, more intimate gatherings, such as a shower or holiday party at your home, the buffet table can be managed by the host alone. Designing the buffet table is a simple matter of balance and symmetry, and, for aesthetics, of building up to the centerpiece.
Cover the buffet table with a tablecloth that reaches to the floor on all sides. On top of this, add a table runner in a contrasting color. Typically, the colors for the cloth and the runner match the rest of the decor.
Arrange the plates, napkins and silverware at one end of the table so people can easily take what's needed and then proceed down either side of the table, thus creating two lines of traffic.
Lay out the food trays so they are balanced across the table. Space them evenly and with a pattern. For instance, start with round trays of snack foods, like cheese and crackers, then proceed to the hot trays with meat dishes. On the other end, mirror this with more hot trays, perhaps with vegetable dishes, ending with round trays of fruit or desserts. This creates a balance of shapes.
Place the largest or tallest food arrangement in the middle of the table, such as a tiered cake or a tiered server. Another popular choice is a punch bowl, chocolate fountain or even something decorative, such as an ice sculpture or floral arrangement. Whatever is in the center of the table will be a centerpiece, so it should be the grandest piece on the table.