5 Tips You Need for a Buffet-Style Party

When it comes to cooking for a crowd, buffet-style is the way to go, whether you’re serving snacks for a sleepover or rallying the troops for the football game — it’s easier to prep for than a sit-down dinner. Not to mention, everybody will be focused on the TV for one reason or another, so self-serve just makes everything easier. Be prepared for any occasion with these hosting hacks.

5. Less means more

Generally speaking, you always want to provide more food than needed for a buffet, compared to a sit-down meal because guests are likely to go back for more a couple of times. That said, the smart move is to keep the variety small, because if you have many different items, then less will be eaten of each, as guests will want to try just about everything. This means that you’ll be left with more leftovers of more types of food. Post event fridge clutter can be chaos. Stick to about five items — two meats, two sides, and a sweet for dessert — and you should be able to spend more on each dish and have less left over.

4. Limit the apps

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If you plan to serve appetizers or finger foods before the feast, set a cap (in your mind) for the number of servings each person should get. You don’t want them filling up on mini-sausages and cheese before the main event, so keep that in mind. I suggest three as a good limit. This way, you’re able to keep the grocery list under control and not be stuck with a ton of leftovers.

3. Plan for the Pasta

If pasta is in your plans, then plan ahead to make sure you make enough. If the pasta or grain is a side dish — such as rice or macaroni n cheese — consider measuring out about two ounces per person, and four ounces if it’s in a main dish like alfredo. This helps get rid of the guesswork and gives you an idea of how much room in the fridge to plan for. Remember, the goal is to satisfy appetites and minimize waste.

2. Do the Dip

Make your dips for the appetizers in advance and let them stay cool in the refrigerator. If you’re using something like salsa, the smart move is to make a large amount, and serve from a smaller dish that’s easy to replenish if needed. This keeps the unused dips nice and cold, and out of the way. Again, keep the options limited, that way guests eat more of eat option, so you’re not overloaded with 16 ounces of pico de gallo after the big game.

1. Keep it Flowing

Drinks can be a tricky situation, so knowing the crowd is critical in terms of options. As with the food, keep the options to a minimum so you don’t run the risk of running out — I’d keep it at three drink options and water. As for quantity, plan for one drink per person per hour. I highly recommend using disposable cups and having a roll of masking tape and a couple of  markers near the drinks so guests can label their cups. All that said, guests are almost certain to use more than one cup, so stock up — estimate four cups per person. With the ice, if you’re getting the the standard bag from your grocery store, it should be able to be split between four guests — plan accordingly.


  • Avoid foods that require a knife

  • Provide tongs for salad, not a spoon

  • Plan out the dish placements

  • Put disposable cups, utensils, etc. at the end of the table

How do you feed a large group of people? Share your best tips and party ideas in the comments section!

Nick Bailey is a forward thinking journalist with a well-rounded skill set unafraid to take on topics head on. He now resides in Austin, TX and continues to create content on a daily basis.