Easy Lunch Buffet

by Christina Hamlett
Inviting guests to help themselves leaves the hostess with more time to visit.

Inviting guests to help themselves leaves the hostess with more time to visit.

A lunch buffet is an informal, low-stress and often economical way to feed a large group of family or friends, whether the occasion is a birthday or anniversary celebration, a baby shower or your turn to host the monthly book club meeting. Many lunch buffet items can be purchased in bulk at wholesale chains like Costco or Smart & Final, prepared in advance and displayed on platters. Table runners with coordinated paper plates, cups and plastic utensils make decorating -- and clean-up -- easy.

Salad Bar

Take a page from restaurants by creating your own salad bar. Place large bowls of mixed greens at either end of the table to avoid a long queue. Fill smaller bowls with cheeses, meats, chopped onions, mushrooms, chopped hard-cooked eggs, tomatoes, crumbled bacon, bay shrimp, shaved carrots, sliced cucumbers, garbanzo beans and croutons. Put out a variety of salad dressings as well as salt and pepper. Include sliced sourdough bread and butter.

Sandwich Bar

For a sandwich bar buffet, use baskets to hold a variety of breads such as white, whole wheat, rye and croissants. Put out mayonnaise, an assortment of mustards and horseradish. Offer your lunch guests a variety of sliced cheeses, deli meats like ham, salami, smoked turkey and roast beef, lettuce, sliced tomatoes, tuna fish and egg salad. Supplement the fare with bulk purchases of potato salad, macaroni salad, chips and some spicy dip mixes.

Stuffed Potato Bar

The russet potatoes for this type of buffet can be baked in the morning, cut in half and scooped out. After warming a blended mixture of potato pulp, butter and heavy cream on the stove top, use a large chafing dish for guests to fill their own potato skins and embellish with grated cheese, onion, bacon bits, sliced mushrooms, broccoli, bay shrimp or a sour cream dip.

Taco Bar

The only cooking prep for a taco bar buffet is browning and seasoning whatever meat you are using. This can be done as early as the day before, stored in the refrigerator and then reheated in the oven or microwave prior to transferring it to a chafing dish for the party. Use premade taco shells or wrap a stack of flour tortillas in aluminum foil and lightly warm in the oven. Put out bowls of grated cheeses, lettuce, chopped tomatoes and onions, chopped black olives, diced jalapenos and plenty of sour cream.


  • "Barefoot Contessa Parties! Ideas and Recipes for Easy Parties That Are Really Fun"; Ina Garten; 2001
  • "Do It for Less! Parties: Tricks of the Trade from Professional Caterers' Kitchens"; Denise Vivaldo, et al.; 2005
  • "Perfect Party Food: All the Recipes and Tips You'll Ever Need for Stress-Free Entertaining from the Diva of Do-Ahead"; Diane Phillips; 2005
  • "Party Snacks!: 50 Simple, Stylish Recipes to Make You a Popular Party Host'; A.J. Rathbun; 2008

About the Author

Ghostwriter and film consultant Christina Hamlett has written professionally since 1970. Her credits include many books, plays, optioned features, articles and interviews. Publishers include HarperCollins, Michael Wiese Productions, "PLAYS," "Writer's Digest" and "The Writer." She holds a B.A. in communications (emphasis on audience analysis and message design) from California State University, Sacramento. She also travels extensively and is a gourmet chef.

Photo Credits

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