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BUFFETS REMAIN A popular service style at events, but buffet setups no longer are limited to standard chafers set on top of banquet tables. Instead, manufacturers are designing buffet equipment to spice food presentation up — or cool it down.


The Metallic Vertical Display from Los Angeles-based Metallic Design Studio is a far cry from a simple banquet table, literally taking food presentation to new heights. The versatile modular shelving system is made up of aluminum panels and steel shelves, which can be attached to the panels at various heights. The system can be configured in different arrangements to serve as a buffet, chef's station, bar back or room divider. When using the product as a buffet, caterers can set dishes on the multilevel shelves to create eye-catching displays of hors d'oeuvre or desserts. The product's flexibility “ben-efits both the event and catering industries with versatile, functional and durable equipment while being aesthetically beautiful and enhancing event environments,” explains Brenda Schwerin, vice president of marketing.

Metallic Design Studio also manufactures Zebratop aluminum and stainless steel table covers, which are designed to jazz up basic banquet tables. The covers are available in 6-foot rectangular, 8-foot rectangular, 6-foot serpentine, 30-inch round and 36-inch round designs that fit snugly over the top of most standard table sizes. Color choices are clear, blue, purple, red, green and black gloss coat anodized hues, as well as gray and gold satin anodized colors. They can also be made to order in custom sizes to fit nonstandard table shapes.


Just as buffet surfaces are getting a makeover, so too are the serving pieces that sit on top of them.

Engineered Plastics in Gibsonville, N.C., manufactures a collection of clear acrylic tiered serving pieces that give menu items a lift. “We developed these tiered items because our customers tell us that they want to add height and visibility to their banquet presentations,” explains Dwight “Davy” Davidson III, president. “They often have limited tabletop space, and tiered items allow them to get more food on the buffet table.” The company offers fluted trays and bowls in varying sizes that can be stacked to serve hot or cold items.

Howard Michaelson, vice president of sales at Kent, Wash.-based manufacturer Gourmet Display, cites serving pieces with multitasking capabilities as current best-sellers. “Ornamental iron beverage and seafood servers that also accommodate ice carvings are very multipurpose,” he says. The company's funky yin-and-yang shaped serving pieces bring an element of fun to the table, while the clean lines of the clear-glass Glacier collection highlight the color and texture of food. Michaelson also points to products that mix materials — such as Tawnya tiered metal stands, which feature stone serving surfaces and acrylic bowls — as another hot trend.


Major concerns with buffet-style service are food safety and quality, so maintaining the correct temperature for menu items is a top priority. “Keeping food and drinks cold during events has always been a challenge,” says Kevin Burke, sales manager for Rockdale, Ill.-based Chillin' Products, which manufactures and sells the Fill 'N Chill table. The one-piece table, which has interior dimensions of 29 inches by 69 inches, features a 3 1/2-inch-deep trough that can be filled with up to 75 pounds of ice to keep food chilled. The table is constructed from lightweight polyethylene and features a central drain hole to easily empty water from the table as the ice melts; collapsible steel legs and optional 4-inch casters make the table transportable and ideal for buffet setups at less formal events. The company is in the process of developing an insert that will add a 2-foot-long dry area to the table, creating a surface area for food preparation or for serving items that don't require chilling.

Also keeping food cool is the Glo-Ice line of acrylic buffet equipment from Engineered Plastics. The line includes three sizes of 1/4-inch-thick acrylic trays that can be filled with crushed ice or ice sculptures weighing as much as 400 pounds, then used in conjunction with light boxes that illuminate the ice from below. The UL-certified light boxes are fitted with two-tube fluorescent light fixtures and come with red, blue and yellow films that can be used to create a colorful glow. The resulting effect is “practical as well as beautiful,” Davidson says, adding that the light-up products will last for many years with reasonable care.


Chillin' Products, 866/932-4455; Engineered Plastics, 336/449-4121; Gourmet Display, 800/767-4711; Metallic Design Studio, 310/845-9379

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