The A-Z of British Etiquette
Buffets range from the sumptuous to the sad. The usual form is that a table or two of platters of hopefully well-presented and fresh-looking food is offered and guests help themselves. Ensure it is pronounced buuf-ay not buf-ay and certainly never buff-it.
But how as host should you organise the buffet table? Place the table somewhere logical in the room. Look at the space available and imagine a neat queue of your guests: do they have space to queue? A buffet table should have a flow, and guests should begin at one end and move towards the other, without having to go back to the start. The start should correctly be the end with the plates. Cutlery and napkins (sadly often cutlery rolled into a napkin) should be at the other end.
You will be easily spotted as a buffet novice if you place cutlery and napkins at the same end as the plates. This will mean your guests will have to grapple with plate and cutlery as they serve themselves the food. Far smarter for them to pick up their eating utensils once they have served themselves.
Make sure platters are replaced before they get to two-thirds empty, as no one is going to take that sad-looking chunk of beef. Remove the platter to the kitchen, add some more beef around the lone slice and replace. Hey presto, someone’s eaten it.
William Hanson the Etiquette and Protocol Consultant for The English Manner. He works with VIP households, diplomats, businessmen, schools and colleges and has advised multi-national brands. He is regularly asked by global media to comment on modern manners and social mores.