There are a lot of aspects that go into providing a successful catering event. From displaying foods, setting up place settings, the equipment needed, and what staff should wear, caterers should have standard practices to give consumers confidence in the services they will receive. Let’s review key areas to be prepared with catering displays, a knowledgeable staff, and more. 

Buffet Presentation and Catering Displays

Set – Up 

Setting up a buffet requires proper planning to ensure safe food temperatures and quick service. It is important to provide a buffet that is clean and easy to service. Follow these few tips for the best catering display and overall outcome possible when setting up your buffet for clients.  

 1. Vary Height 

Your catering displays reflect your business. Put dishes at varying height creating dimension that is appealing to the eye and also creating more space for dishes. Additionally, be sure to elevate less messy dishes to avoid spills. 

 2. Have A Clear Flow 

Help guests clearly know where to start getting their food to prevent traffic jams. If there is a large group, it is best to allow guests to go along either side of the table. At the beginning of the buffet, include all plates and at the end, have utensils so that guests are not fumbling while filling their plates. 

 3. Keep It Clean 

Avoid a mess on the buffet table but placing small plates near each dish to provide a place for guests to place serving utensils. Also, it is a great idea to do this under beverage dispensers to catch drips. 

 4. Name the Dish 

In a world with increased dietary restrictions and allergies, it is extremely important to provide tags that identify the dish as well as any important ingredients. Include known potential issues such as peanuts, milk, eggs, etc. 

 5. Strategic Layout 

How tables are positioned is very important. Be sure that the layout avoids overcrowding, allows easy use for those with disabilities, and provides quick access for servers to refill the table.  

Once the tables are positioned well, the layout on the table can be determined. A great way to visualize the set-up is to stage the layout with empty bowls and dishes before adding food. 

 6. Fill in Display Gaps 

With the serving dishes in place, you can make the table more visually appealing. Utilize in season and event appropriate décor to fill gaps. A few ideas include faux foliage, unscented candles, vases, and more. 

 7. Keep it full 

Be sure to keep serving dishes full throughout the time of service to ensure happy guests. They are excited to eat your food – allow everyone to get some of what they want! 

Table Presentation

Lay Out 

The table set-up will vary based on the type of event that is being catered. Is the event a self-serve buffet? A casual lunch? A formal three-course meal dinner? Reference the below for proper set-up of place settings.  

Setting Visual Needed
Basic Basic Place Setting -
  • Plate 
  • Napkin 
  • Fork 
  • Knife 
  • Spoon 
  • Water glass 
Casual Casual Place Setting -
  • Dinner plate 
  • Salad plate 
  • Soup bowl 
  • Napkin 
  • Fork 
  • Knife 
  • Spoon 
  • Water glass 
  • Wine glass 
Formal Formal Place Setting -
  • Charger 
  • Soup Bowl 
  • Bread plate 
  • Napkin 
  • Salad fork 
  • Dinner fork 
  • Butter knife 
  • Dessert Spoon 
  • Dinner knife 
  • Soup spoon 
  • Salt & Pepper Shaker 
  • Place Card 
  • Water glass 
  • Red wine glass 
  • White wine glass 

*All place setting charts are resources from 


Staff working at the catered event should always act professionally. We recommend that all staff have cohesive attire – a black buttoned shirt and black pants are a great option. Additionally, staff should be prepped beforehand with knowledge on the menu, potential allergens, and how to properly refill foods. Having a professional, cohesive, knowledgeable staff goes a long way in giving guests confidence in your food and services. 


Equipment/Supplies Needed 

A lot goes into creating the best possible catered buffet. It is essential to have proper equipment and supplies to keep food at safe temperatures with a professional presentation. Quickly see all of the equipment and supplies that you need for a fantastic catering event: 

Looking to start your own catering business? We can help!

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