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Pastry buffets in hotels: 6 tips for a 5-star experience

The lunch or dinner buffet is certainly the best-selling meal package in a hotel. The reason is simple: fast, cheap, practical, and, if done well, captivating.

Especially the dessert buffet can give a majestic glance and make diners fall in love with your food even before tasting it.

That’s why it's important to know how to set it up correctly and achieve this result.


The companies that come to your hotel for a meeting, the newly-weds who celebrate their wedding with you ... all of them choose a more or less rich food package, usually based on how much budget they have per guest. Usually the variety of desserts requested is between 3 and 5.

They normally choose from your menus. The decision always falls on a chocolate dessert, a fruity or tropical one, a “spoon dessert” (creme brulee, panna cotta or cream caramel), and, of course, the classic fruit salad. It's up to you to make these desserts aesthetically appealing and, despite their simplicity, memorable.


A dessert buffet, in addition to being sexy, must also be set up in an intelligent and practical way. We first analyze the location and place it at a point that:

  • doesn’t block the flow of people

  • not too close to the tables of the diners

  • easily reachable by the waiters for replacements

It is recommended to create more stations if the number of guests exceeds one hundred, just to speed up the supply.


Desserts must have a small-medium size (40-50g) and have to be placed on plates, glasses or saucers. The point is for it to be easier to grip for diners. The single portions, due to the ease of supply, will be arranged behind, raised compared to the desserts, and cut fruits. Each dessert has a front part, where the decoration is located, this will have to look at the customer and all desserts must be arranged in an orderly and equidistant way. Avoid exaggerating with the quantities, so your buffet does not look overflowing. Remember to combine the varieties to create a harmonious colour effect, while also playing with heights.


Often, in hotels, when the scheduled event is of great media impact or highly profitable, the organizers contract out the creation of decorations and set-ups to specialized external companies. Florists, professional fitters, and decorators, with all their beautiful equipment, give you plenty of opportunities to watch and learn their techniques and skills. In fact, it is important to try to give a touch of personalization to all the buffets you are setting up. You can use marble, black or silver risers, glass vases, and candles for a more elegant and futuristic touch. Otherwise, you can use wood, books, plants, paintings, or homemade tablecloths for a more rustic and informal touch. Do not forget that plants, flowers, and fruit give a touch of natural colour and that, if used wisely, truly elevate and add aesthetic value to your work.


In addition to the buffet, a live station, where a pastry chef prepares a dish in front of the costumers, is always very impactful. The section must be decorated with the theme of the dessert you want to offer, with a mise en place arranged in elegant and clean containers and an operator with impeccable grooming, smiling, and engaging with guests. The most popular offers are usually the ice cream cart (obviously in the hot seasons), the proposal of a fried sweet at the moment (be careful to be close to an escape route for smells and to work safely, with hot oil you cannot joke) crepe, churros. You can also propose the plating of a dessert in front of customers, another simple but much-appreciated idea.


It is always fun to serve customers in the open air in the summer, it gives you the chance to see the light outside the kitchen and a few people who are not your colleagues. But remember that cream-based desserts, at 40 degrees in direct sunlight, are a big problem. Keep this in mind when drawing up your hot season menus, to prevent your creations from melting on the buffet or, even worse, from going rancid and intoxicating someone! If the customer is stubborn and demanding, you will have to rebalance your recipes so that they resist high temperatures for at least an hour.

In conclusion, the buffet represents the fruit of your creativity as much as the dessert itself. The only limits to its beauty and personality are your creativity and skill. Remember, however, that we are pastry chefs, not decorators, the preparation of the supports, and the placing of the cakes must not take more than 30 minutes, we have no time to waste, there is another banquet waiting for us!

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Mauro Di Lieto

Pastry chef

Making life sweeter in luxury hotels