How to Choose a Buffet Menu

Choosing a buffet menu can be daunting, but these tips and tricks will help you feel calm, cool, and collected during your cocktail party.   

One of the most stressful parts of planning a cocktail party, or any party for that matter, is choosing the menu. I have learned some great lessons along the way, and I’m here to share them with you now.

Here are a few tips for choosing a buffet menu for a cocktail party:

1. Keep it simple!
2. Choose 6-8 items, nothing too fancy, and nothing that requires more than one hand.
3. When choosing proteins, go for a fish, a meat/poultry, and a vegetarian option. (Hummus is always a great option!)
4. I know it may seem lame, but everyone REALLY does love a veggie and fruit tray. These should be staples on any buffet line.
5. Arrange the table with hot foods first, ending with cold. However, it is best to choose items that can be served room temperature, so you don’t have to deal with chafing dishes and iced platters…

Now, let’s break each of those down…

Choosing 6-8 items:

Depending on how many guests you have coming, depends on how many items you should determine.

Less than 8 people, I would only do 4-5.

10-12 people, 5-7.

12-18 people, 7-9.

18+ people, 8 items. 

You may be wondering how on earth you are supposed to “cast” 8 food items to make…

 You don’t!

Choose 4 to make, and 4 to buy. Take a hint from your specialty food stores and purchase cheese, nuts, dried fruits, olives, and charcuterie items to ease your life!


*Be sure to opt for items that are hand held, easy to eat. Nothing that requires a fork, unless you have cutlery for twice as many people. It’s better to have cute toothpicks or skewers that guests can use in place.

Choosing a Protein:

Having filling items on your menu is a must for cocktails. Protein is your best bet to keep bellies full! ((Don’t you hate showing up at a party, and there is only nuts and cake?!))

For a fish item, shrimp cocktail is a great option. As long as you have it labelled, for allergy prone!

For the meat eaters, shaved roast beef with a sweet and spicy mustard on soft rolls keeps it hand-held, but feels like a “real meal.”

Chicken satay is really the perfect menu addition. Grill, or bake chicken the day before, then place on a platter. Have skewers ready to dip in the store bought satay sauce as they eat.

Vegetarians are a little bit harder to please with out using a fork. Hummus is easy – pre-bought is great. One other fulfilling vegetarian cocktail food is falafel. You can buy these pre-made, or call you local Mediterranean restaurant and order!

The Veggie & Fruit Platter:

I always, always, ALWAYS have veggies and fruit on the buffet table. I like to make a homemade dip, such as my Maui Onion Dip to serve with veggies. You can make it a few days in advance, and plop into a bowl in the center of the veggie tray. The fruit can be put onto a large platter — and arranged by way of ROYGBIV (You know…. Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet!)

Onto choosing cocktails, the fun part! 

For a “staying-on-budget” party, choose one cocktail, premixed. Or, opt for just wine. Or, just champagne. There are so many things you can do with champagne or prosecco; making this a wonderful option that everyone loves. 

Choosing the Drinks:

So, after you have chosen your alcohol based cocktail, opt for a non-alcohol drink.

This Vanilla Almond Tea is wonderful any time of the day. Perfect for a brunch, later afternoon, or evening soiree. And, here in the South, everyone loves a glass of Iced Tea! 

Lastly, have one or two sweet items. Just to satisfy your guests sweet tooth! Cupcakes are perfect, hand held and easy to eat… Especially if they are mini cupcakes!

Here is a short list of handheld-dessert-options:
– cake pops
– cupcakes
– mini cupcakes
– cookies
– brownies, or some other type of bar cookie
– candy bar 

Be sure to share any tips you have for cocktail parties, I’d love to hear them!



Similar Posts