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Cook Talk

Buffet for 50 adults
Kathi
01/13/14
Organizing a buffet, will include ham and baked chicken breasts, along with potato casseroles,rolls, cole slaw, pasta salad, a rice casserole, either cakes or pies for dessert. What do I need to fill out menu, i.e. vegetable. What about an easy appetizer?
ellen
01/13/14
2 veggies would be lovely- I would do whole green beans, or maybe the Prince Edward mix with both green and yellow string beans and carrot strips; for 50 people, about 10-12 pounds ready to cook. Then with the ham and baked chicken, baby carrots in a maple glaze would be delicious and colorful, about 8-9 pounds as the second veg.
Kathi
02/21/14
In what order should food dishes be set up on buffet tables, is it always meat items first? Or could the potato casserole be on the table before the ham, which could then be laid on top?
ellen
02/22/14
I am working on an article about this, hope it answers your questions, would welcome feedback. Here is a beta update from the paragraphs:

Once you have selected your menu, you can begin planning the layout of your buffet. A very effective way to do this, which will also help assure you have all necessary equipment and utensils, is to use the actual serving dishes and utensils on a table or tables of the planned size. If you do not have equipment which will be rented, you can use cardboard or brown paper cut outs!

Whether you have servers for the plates or the diners serve themselves, you use the same order of service. Group each type of food, so that people can see how much meat, salad, etc. there is. If you have a limited amount of food for some dish, or it is very popular, it is wise to have a server for the dish to control the size of the portions. Sometimes, people seem to forget that there are many others in the line behind them.

The following layout for the service line is common, though not always the best choice for a buffet service:

Plates
Main courses/Meats/Entrees
Main Starches
Vegetables
Salads or Relish Tray
Breads
Desserts (ideally for large groups, on a separate table or on the seating tables)
Flatware
Napkins
Drinks (ideally for large groups, on a separate table)

You may have a reason to change this order. For example, you can somewhat reduce the quantity needed of the more expensive foods this way: as a rule, the further along in the serving line a dish is, the more moderate the amount taken. You will use less of the main course if you set up this arrangement:

Plates
Salads or Relish Tray
Vegetables
Starches
Meats/ Entrees
Bread
Desserts(ideally for large groups, on a separate table or on the seating tables)
Flatware
Napkins
Drinks (ideally for large groups, on a separate table)

Notice that in both cases only the plates are at the front of the line. That way, diners are not trying to balance napkins, flatware, and glasses as they serve their plates. Placing the flatware, salads, desserts or drinks at separate serving tables from the main buffet, or on the individual tables, speeds up the service line.

The important exception to either of the above orders is:
if a food has to be assembled as it is served, such as a sandwich or a taco salad, put the serving dishes in the order the dish is assembled. Bread goes at the beginning of a sandwich line, not at the end. Taco meat goes after the lettuce and the beans.

Keeping the Buffet Line Flowing
A guiding principle is that the fewer actual choices to be made by the individual diner in the line, the faster the line will move.

Placing a written complete menu on a card at the start of the service line and labeling individual dishes helps diners make quicker decisions.
Foods which are already in individual portions serve more quickly than those the diner must wrestle into servings. Portion as much as possible individually and keep portions small. For example, meat servings are about 3 ounces, since people tend to take several different items.
Separating different parts of foods in the serving dishes, for example having white meat and dark in different chafing dishes or at least on opposite ends of the platter or chafing dish, also simplifies things for the diners.
Pre-portioning or plating items like salads or desserts into individual portions helps the diners move through the buffet quickly.
At a seated dinner with buffet service, salads and desserts might be placed directly at the individual places at each table, instead of being served from the buffet. Bread and butter and beverages can also be placed on each table.

Potlucks are usually self serve and are set up in the same order as buffets.

When the dessert buffet is set up separately from the main line, the flatware, dishes, and extra napkins needed for the dessert are placed on the table where the desserts are served.

Kathi
02/24/14
Thanks for your input on setting up the buffet line. Very logical order, especially having the flatware and napkins at the end of the main buffet table.
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