Buffet (food)

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Fish buffet
Buffet set up in a kitchen

The buffet [ byˈfɛt ] (esp. Austrian and Swiss. Buffet [ bʏˈfe bes, esp. Swiss. ˈBʏfe ]; from French le buffet , "sideboard, counter") is a direct type of food presentation in the catering industry . Instead of serving a menu sequence (e.g. starter , main course , dessert ) at the guest's table, in a buffet the dishes are served on a counter or table, and the guest can serve himself according to his preferences . In addition to self-service, there is also partial service at the festive buffet (cooks serve) or combinations of Á la carte and buffet. A special type is the so-called flying buffet without a buffet structure.


A distinction is made between buffets with exclusively cold dishes, buffets with exclusively warm dishes and combined buffets with cold and warm dishes. In cold buffets , for example, cheese - sausage - and fish plates, salads , pastries and butter offered as well as small cold dishes and various desserts. Warm soups , various warm meat and fish dishes or vegetarian options as well as various warm side dishes are available for warm buffets .

There are several types of buffet:

Banquet buffet

Banquet buffets, also known as festive or gala buffets, are characterized by their special cuisine. By visually appealing arranged show panels show effects. Banquet buffets are given on special personal or business occasions, for example New Year's Eve banquets, company anniversaries, engagements, etc. Festive buffets are usually served only partially. The extensive range corresponds to a menu sequence of cold dishes.

Restaurant buffet

Cold and warm buffets have been part of the offerings of hotels , restaurants , catering companies and butchers for decades . The buffet can be provided as a breakfast , lunch or dinner buffet , as well as an all-day buffet or on certain occasions.

International and themed buffet

International buffets are assigned to both restaurant and banquet buffets. Themed buffets are limited to a limited selection of dishes (according to a given theme) and the buffet is decorated accordingly. Examples are:

  • Danish buffet (roast platters, cold seafood dishes; bread variations, small wheat pastries; beer, buttermilk; red fruit jelly, marzipan pastries)
  • English buffet (meat, game and poultry served in one piece, egg and cheese dishes, pies , seasoned sauces , mixed pickles , salt nuts; warm soups, dishes and desserts )
  • Italian buffet (pizzas, Italian ham, salami, cheese and salads, aspic dishes , fresh fruit, white bread, minestrone , pasta dishes and Mediterranean fish )
  • Smörgåsbord , the Swedish buffet (selection of marinated and smoked fish, seafood, elk meat )
  • Russian buffet ( Sakuski starter buffet, caviar, salmon, crustaceans , suckling pig , ham, mushrooms, vegetables, sparkling wine, vodka).

Mixed forms

Standing buffets (Engl. Stand-up buffet ) offer themselves for large receptions, which are limited to a period of 1-2 hours. The food should be comfortable to eat while standing, should be able to be consumed with a cocktail stick or with only one piece of cutlery . Only high tables are used , not chairs. The chefs usually do the service, serve and advise.

It is also possible to offer only individual parts from a sequence of dishes as a buffet by combining, for example, soup buffets, salad buffets, dessert and / or cake buffets with the à la carte dining service.


Stationary buffet

Smaller buffets are usually set up asymmetrically, with guests walking from one side. Large buffets are often set up symmetrically from the center to both sides. A key focal point in the buffet area, a fascia be a flower arrangement or an ice sculpture. Nearby are the fish and meat platters with matching sauces, then starters and salads, followed by cheese, fruit and desserts on the sides or on extra tables.

There are different ways of positioning the crockery and cutlery on the one hand and the dishes on the other in the room or rooms and leading the guests along the buffet:

  • A standard method is the twofold linear one: starting with napkins, cutlery and dishes, the dishes are lined up in the order (the tables are not necessarily in a straight, but closed line) in which they would have been served with a conventional menu sequence. In principle, the guests are required to queue up and “walk through” the buffet. Leaving the row is accepted at any time, but not pushing in.
  • A variant of this places the tables - individually or in groups - in a kind of sawtooth one behind the other and next to one another from the outset to make it clear that the process can be started at different points (e.g. skipping the starter).
  • A clear (possibly also spatial) separation of the individual buffet components indicates their independence, so that the guests can act according to their personal preferences.

Flying buffet

In addition to stationary buffet, there is also a so-called flying buffet ( english flying buffet ) without breakfast establishment and without seating. It is finger food served after a set menu sequence on trays "on the fly", the guests eat standing up. All dishes (soups, salads, main courses, desserts) are suitable for a flying buffet, provided they can be offered in bite-sized form and as mini-portions. This form of offer, which comes from the USA, is suitable for confined spaces or special events such as the opening of exhibitions, concerts, trade fairs, etc., but it is very labor-intensive.

payment method

As a rule, a flat rate per person is charged for buffets , which refers to only one use of the buffet or to permanent use ( English All You Can Eat , German  everything you can eat ). Some restaurateurs use a special buffet as a marketing tool to e.g. B. to win more guests at certain times in the form of a buffet; In Switzerland, such a buffet is called a buffet à discrétion .

Sometimes the guests at the buffet have to provide proof of authorization, which can be done with a voucher , a bracelet , a room number, etc. this is often the case in so-called all-inclusive holidays.


The buffet spread from France to the rest of Europe in the 17th century . Napoleon , who is said not to have been a fan of overly formal receptions, is considered to be the patron of the buffet ; so the tradition of the standing reception ( finger food ) goes back to him. The culinary provision of the guests at such receptions took place in the form of a buffet. While special buffet-restaurant chains have existed in the United States since the 1980s, which offer meals exclusively in buffet form, such restaurants have only existed in Germany since around the beginning of the 21st century.

Web links

Wiktionary: Buffet  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Buffet  album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f Herrmann, F. Jürgen: Textbook for cooks . Handwerk und Technik, Hamburg 1999, ISBN 3-582-40055-7 , p. 412 ff .
  2. ^ A b c d Philip Pauli: Classical Cooking The Modern Way: Methods and Techniques . John Wiley & Sons, 1999, ISBN 978-0-471-29187-9 , pp. 198–201 ( google.de [accessed on August 18, 2019]).
  3. Claus Schünemann: Learning fields of the bakery and confectionery - sales: practical theory textbook for vocational training to become a specialist salesperson in the food trade . Gildebuchverlag GmbH, 2006, ISBN 978-3-7734-0170-0 , p. 492 ( google.de [accessed on August 20, 2019]).
  4. ^ Herrmann, F. Jürgen: Textbook for cooks . Handwerk und Technik, Hamburg 2003, ISBN 3-582-40057-3 ( handwerk-technik.de [PDF]).