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How to Serve a Buffet

On this page are some tips for serving a buffet. These tips will also come in handy if you are hosting a pot luck.

Rules for Serving Food

1. Place and remove plates from the left of the person being served. Hold the plate in your left hand. If you are carrying two plates, place on the table first the one in your left hand, then transfer the other plate to your left hand, and place it before the next person being served.

2. Place and remove beverages from the right, with your right hand. If you are serving tea, coffee, cocoa, or any other hot beverage, take care that the cups are not too full. Hot liquid that is spilled can easily cause a painful burn.

3. Refill glasses or cups from the right, leaving them in position on the table rather than picking them up.

4. Carry plates in such a way that you do not touch the surface from which food is eaten. Avoid touching the rims of glasses. When placing silverware, touch only the handles.

5. Offer food to the guest from the left, holding it low enough so that he can easily serve himself with his right hand.

6. Never reach across in front of a guest when serving food or removing dishes.

7. When a course is finished, remove all dishes used in that course. Remove serving dishes and silver first, then remove the dishes from each person's cover, usually beginning with the hostess or guest of honor.

8. Avoid stacking dishes on the table in front of the guest in clearing the table. Use your left hand to remove the plate, transfer it to your right hand for the salad plate or other dish.

Serving and Removing Food

When you are serving plates of food, carry one in each hand. Standing at the left of the person you are serving, place in front of her the plate you are holding in your left hand. Then transfer to your left hand the plate you were holding in your right hand, move to the next person, and serve her in the same manner.

When you pass food to a person at the table, offer it at her left, low enough so she can reach it conveniently with her right hand. Then move to the next person at the first parson's right.

When you remove soiled dishes, stand at the left of the person and take the plate in your left hand. Transfer the plate to your right hand, leaving your left hand free to remove the next plate.

If a guest requests more water, fill her glass or goblet without removing it from the table. Hold the pitcher of water in the right hand and a folded napkin in the left hand to catch any water that drips as the glass is being refilled. As a matter of routine, water glasses or goblets are refilled after the main course plates are removed, and before dessert is served.

Buffet Service

Another service that is often used when a quick, informal meal is planned for a large crowd is called "buffet service." All the food is placed on platters or in bowls on a table, together with silverware, plates and napkins.

Each person serves himself. It is important that the food be easy to serve as well as eat. Each person then takes his food to the place where he will eat it.

The hostess may have set up card tables or small folding TV tables, or she may have planned that her guests will use lap trays while eating the food.

Simple paper plate buffet

For a perfect buffet service plan carefully in advance, select foods that are easy to eat, and serve them with a flair. Whether you use paper plates and cups from the dollar store or borrow your mother's best china, and whether you serve the food indoors, consider the color scheme and the way the food looks and tastes and you'll have a pretty party.

Also see: How to setup an outdoor buffet

More Articles

1900's How to Set a Dinner Table
How to Correctly Serve Food
Basic Table Manners
Basic Use of Silverware
Basic Pantry List
How to Decorate a Cake

Also see: Turkey Dinner Timeline and How to serve Turkey dinner

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