Holiday entertaining tips: Buffet psychology 101

With the holidays just around the corner, more than a few of us will be hosting a festive dinner party, buffet or potluck. And as pleasant as any holiday event may be, it seems like the moment someone rings the dinner bell, an otherwise civil gathering turns into a stampede as guests mob the food table.

In an effort to keep the meal as manageable as possible, here are a few rules to follow to keep dinner organized. Just call it a little "buffet psychology."

1. Organize the food layout, with a definite beginning and ending. Set the plates, napkins and silverware/plasticware at one end of the table near the food, so guests know where to line up. This will keep the guests from rushing the food like an NFL defensive line.

2. Consider plate size as guests tend to fill up whatever size plate they have, be it small or large. Go with a smaller plate (8 to 9 inches) so guests don't overfill and waste food. They can always go back for seconds.

3. Organize all of the less-expensive/greater-quantity foods, such as salads and starches (rolls, rice, potatoes, etc), at the "beginning" of the buffet. Save the big-ticket and expensive items (tri-tip, ribs, chicken and fish) for the very end so guests have less room on their plates and are less likely to overfill.

They're simple tips, but they can help you keep everything organized as your big event progresses. For more information, check out this episode of "The Splendid Table" radio program.

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