Buffet noun bu-fA 1. a counter for refreshments 2. a restaurant operated as a public convenience (as in a railway station) 3. a meal set out on a buffet or table for ready access and informal service

Who's talking while I'm eating?

If you have a luncheon speaker, set buffet tables far to the side or on the opposite end from the speaker's area. This way, diners won't be disruptive.

No juggling necessary

One plate per guest should be enough for all the foods served — just make sure it's a big plate. A fork and knife, nicely packaged together for easy carrying, should be the only utensils required.

Buffets vs. plated:

Which is less expensive? Some say buffets, especially for larger groups. Others say that, because of food selections, equipment to keep the food warm, and staff required to serve, buffets can cost more. Those in favor of plated dinners say they give the meal an air of sophistication. Buffet-o-philes point to serving speed and selection, as well as the food staying at ideal serving temperature and the chance for guests to mingle in line.

Get those jaws moving

A buffet setup is conducive to easy conversation and mingling.

Get those feet moving

One of your goals when planning a buffet should be to allow guests to serve themselves quickly, easily, and without waiting in long lines. The table should be arranged so that people either walk up one side and back down the other, or down both sides at the same time.

Which would you prefer?

Prep two or three suggested menus and submit them to those who need to be in the know for feedback. This way, you'll cover all your bases in terms of dietary restrictions/needs.

Beef or chicken? Boring!

Spice up your buffet with a theme. You can center it around the venue. In the tropics? Serve Caribbean. Or make it fun and festive with finger foods — filo-wrapped prawns or dim sum all around. Use your imagination and serve something other than meat and potatoes.

It's up to you

Who will select the menu? Most of the time, it's the meeting professional. “Why me?” you ask. Because you have all the info: theme, location, special needs, availability, pricing structures, attendance info, and so on.

SOURCES: www.perfectmeeting.com; www.brockhouserestaurant.com/catering_wit.html; www.hollandsentinel.com/stories/090699/fea_buffet.html ; Etiquette International, www.etiquetteintl.com; www.antion.com/articles/banquet.htm; Merriam-Webster Online, www.m-w.com

Do you want to get the last word in? Send your ideas to ttennant@primediabusiness.com