Pros & Cons: Sit Down Dinner vs. Buffet?

We are hosting Thanksgiving dinner at our home this year, for the first time. My family hasn't got a traditional dining style beyond simply gathering together, so I'm busy contemplating the logistics of such an event in our home! Do we have a sit down dinner? Or go buffet style?
Pin it button
I recently helped put on a baby shower for a close friend, and we opted for a buffet style event. (Even though we've seen record breaking heat this summer in Austin, I know we won't be having a garden party for Thanksgiving — the photos above are from the shower!) When I think about buffet style, I typically imagine a scenario that yearns for more formality and elegance. However, my friends ended up orchestrating a buffet dinner that was full of both.

This got me thinking about the pros and cons of each style of dining: sit down dinners vs. buffet. I've tried to outline the advantages and disadvantages of each, but please feel free to chime in with things I may have overlooked — I am still undecided about which approach to take for our holiday dinner!

Buffet Pros/Sit Down Cons:


  • With a buffet, your table may be set without leaving the necessary room for serving dishes and platters, as you would need for a sit down dinner. This means more room for centerpieces and decorative dinner and glassware.

  • There is no need to figure out which way to pass serving dishes if you opt for a buffet. There is so often a bit of confusion about direction when food begins to get passed around, and somehow, I never seem to get the mashed potatoes! (As a sidebar on this one, I actually take a great deal of pleasure in the bustling that goes on at a dinner table, so it's not entirely fair that I call this a sit down con...I'll leave it to you to decide!)

  • At a sit down dinner, those who have difficulty holding large serving dishes sometimes have some trouble passing. At a buffet, it is much easier to negotiate serving, or find someone to help out.

  • If you opt for a "serious" buffet, chafing dishes and warmers may be used to keep food the proper temperature. Dishes left on the table will inevitably cool.

  • You have the opportunity to embellish your buffet table as well as your dining table. Some of us take any opportunity to arrange and decorate, although if you consider this more of a burden, go ahead and move it to the other list!

Sit Down Pros/Buffet Cons:


  • If you haven't got spare room, setting up an entirely separate table or sideboard for a buffet may not be an option. Sit down dining may be the best option, spatially.

  • There is an air of formality to a sit down dinner. The pomp and circumstance of such an event can really add to the specialness of an occasion. Even though I noted that our aforementioned buffet party still retained a lovely formality, sit down dinners can be more solemn and intimate events---which many people prefer for the holidays.

  • At a sit down dinner, although food will take a moment to pass completely around a table, everyone begins serving at the same time. A buffet requires a line, or at least a modicum of "taking ones turn" that tends to be a little less hospitable.

  • When going for seconds at a buffet, it is much more obvious than at a sit down dinner! Never mind thirds or fourths...

  • Folks will have chosen their seats at a sit down dinner prior to holding a plate full of food. Unless the seats are assigned, of course. This prevents the search for your place at the table with your dinner in your hands!


I'm sure I've missed something---what do you think about buffet vs. sit down? For my family, it truly is all about being together for the holiday. I'm just trying to set myself up as much as possible for a successful event!

Images: Jessica Blake Tata

19 Comments