Plan ahead: The day before your party, set your buffet with all the serving pieces and label each one with a sticky note indicating what food it’s intended for. That way you won’t be scrambling for a bowl—or a place to put it—right before dinner.
Set your starting point: A big stack of plates makes a great a visual cue to where guests should start the buffet line, but don’t place the napkins and silverware there. Instead, leave knives, forks, and napkins at the end of the buffet, so guests don’t have to try and hang onto them while they’re serving themselves.
Add height: The meal will look more inviting if you elevate certain dishes and add varying height for visual interest. You can buy tiered serving items, or get creative by wrapping plain boxes to look like gifts or stacking books under linens to add elevation (just make sure everything is sturdy enough to serve from!).
Position dishes strategically: Place any menu items in you have a limited supply of at the end of the line. Guests will be less tempted to take a giant scoop if their plates are nearly full.
Keep it clean: Place empty saucers throughout the buffet so guests have a spot to rest those sticky serving spoons.
Move the bar: Set the drinks as far from the food as you can—at the far end of a long buffet, or on a separate table. That way, guests refilling a glass won’t interfere with those who are filling a plate. You can avoid mixing drinks all night by whipping up a big batch of a signature drink like sangria.