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The Hottest (and Coolest) Buffets and Stations of 2018

Buffet and station-style services are far and away the most popular catering purchase from a client’s perspective, especially for special events and weddings. While this means that caterers have really perfected this routine service style, it also means that they are constantly looking for ways to innovate, differentiating their buffets from all the others on the block. This competition has truly inspired creativity, judging by this year's trends!

We've rounded up some of the most exciting buffet and station trends of 2018, so take a look and get inspired!


Photo Credit: The JDK Group

Embrace the backdrop

When caterers think of buffet or station décor, they usually think about the food presentation and the table it is served on. Think bigger. Use the entire area of the station or buffet to set the tone, creating a backdrop with wooden pallets, curtains, foliage, or even surfboards, if the theme fits!

Bring the kitchen to them

Everybody likes a good dinner and a show, so give your guests something exciting to look at. Have chefs complete the dish right before it is served to guests, with a final sear on a steak, a brulée on a dessert, or even an elaborate garnishing. This trend—known commonly as action stations—is so popular that the ICA created a new CATIE award specifically for these exciting stations.

Photo credit: Lux Catering and Events

Show them the kitchen

Alternatively, set up a small, open kitchen in or near the food service space so that guests can watch their food be prepared—like Lux Catering and Events in Salt Lake City, Utah has done. Your guests will be eager to see chefs in action, and it will be a feature they remember (and share with others) long after the event ends.

Photo credit: Lux Catering and Events

Let guests mix and match

Caterers nowadays are more in touch with the palates and dietary needs of their guests than ever. Save yourself some work by letting the guests choose their own destiny: set up a station where they choose their own toppings for pasta, sandwiches, power bowls, mashed potatoes—you name it.


Photo credit: Schaffer

Get the guests involved

Schaffer created this station for a fundraiser for HOLA (Heart of Los Angeles—a children’s charity in Los Angeles. All of the stations were designed to have guests and their children interact as part of the overall carnival theme experience. At the sweetest station, a candy hair salon, animated servers trimmed and shaped large bouffants of cotton candy wrapped onto mannequin heads. They then filled cone cups with the trimmed cotton candy hair and handed them to guests.

Group by cuisine, not course

While the tendency may be to group appetizers with appetizers, entrées with entrées, and desserts with desserts, try instead to create a station with all three courses from one particular culture. Have Greek, Korean, Southern U.S., and Northern African stations with a variety of dishes from each, so guests can feel immersed in each culture as they visit.

Feeling inspired? We sure hope so—we can't wait to see what you come up with next.

The JDK Group, Lux Catering and Events and Schaeffer are proud members of the ICA. For more information on the ICA or the new CATIE award, visit

Want more inspiration for your actions stations and buffets? Join us at Catersource 2019 in New Orleans for more information on this lively topic. Click here for session information and here to take you to registration.


International Caterers Association

For motivated caterers, International Caterers Association is a resource that provides Education, encourages peer to peer Relationships and Inspires creativity while embracing all segments of the catering industry. For more information, visit