Buffet-style dinner parties are best suited for events or parties in which there will be a larger number of guests. Though buffets can sometimes be associated with more casual gatherings, they certainly have the capacity to be dressed up as well, depending on what the occasion calls for. Cuisine themes can be great in unifying your buffet, for example, choosing a specific region’s or style of cuisine.
For familiar get-togethers and casual occasions, finger, barbeque, and comfort foods can be the most easy-to-serve, easy-to-eat, and least expensive to make. Container dishes like lasagna, casseroles, mac 'n’ cheese, and baked ziti are ideal, and should please even the pickiest eaters, as smaller children often are. If you choose to theme your buffet based on a particular region of the world, the best dishes for a buffet-style party are those which are traditionally shared or those that are a bit more “DIY." For example, having burrito stations that allow people to cater to their own specific tastes in building their own burrito.
Finger foods are great for buffets because they’re so versatile. Of course, they’re ideal as appetizer fare, though it’s a fun yet practical idea to adapt main course-type dishes into the style of finger foods. For example, instead of serving tomato/mozzarella/basil paninis or a Caprese salad, which can require silverware and sitting, tomato/mozzarella/basil skewers have all of your basic components, but don’t require much focus to eat. If mac 'n’cheese will please your younger guests, skewers will certainly please their parents.
For work-related gatherings or other more formal occasions, themes can be key here, as a unified presentation tends to come off more buttoned-up. For example, a Chinese food menu can be enhanced with paper lanterns and other sorts of Chinese New Year type decorations communicating both festivity and careful planning. For events that straddle the line between casual and dressy, like a large dinner party, it can be fun to add a twist by serving more gourmet-style versions of classic comfort foods. Dishes will at once be buffet-friendly, creative, and yet more sophisticated.
When choosing cuisine themes that are popularly perceived as more sophisticated, like French cuisine, try and stay away from very complicated, hard-to-prepare, or high-maintenance dishes. Instead, focus (though fairly limit) any complication on smaller dishes like appetizers and side-dishes. Also, try and think of angles to the cuisine that are either more bite-sized or party-friendly. For example, putting a twist on a French menu, like country French or a Parisian Picnic can still seem fancy, but be a lot easier for you in terms of dishes to maintain on a buffet table. It can mean the difference a temperamental cheese soufflé and easy-to-serve ratatouille.
When setting up your buffet table/s, it’s a good idea to position your main buffet table somewhere in the middle of your space so that dinner guests are able to access it from either end. Make sure to supply both ends with plates, flatware, and napkins, and that you consistently re-stock and overfill all your serving dishes so there’s enough for everyone to have seconds. Place your desserts, appetizers, drinks, and side items on separate tables or areas to divide traffic and place emphasis on the main courses.