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Banquet Setting

Once you’ve found the perfect venue, it’s time to select your banquet style. There are several banquet types, so read on to discover one that fits your event.

Banquet halls are the perfect venue for any event. From birthdays to bachelorette parties, weddings to receptions, and baby showers to quinceañeras to anniversaries, a banquet hall can accommodate them all. One of the most appreciated features is how simple it is to transform a banquet hall to fit your theme—and that transformation goes deeper than just decorations to include aspects like banquet service. 

What is banquet service?

A banquet is a sumptuous feast served to a large group gathered for a celebration. The word “banquet” is likely derived from the French word “banquet,” meaning “little bench.” That French term comes from the Germanic word “bank.” Five points if you can guess the meaning of that term (it’s “bench”).

Initially, the English term “banquet” meant “a small snack eaten while sitting on a bench” because we needed a word for that, I guess. Perhaps the phrase evolved to mean a massive feast is that during the medieval age (and “Game of Thrones”), guests at banquets sat on long benches, not individual chairs.

The term “banquet service” is a blanket phrase for every banquet component: food, beverages, chairs, tables, room layout, food service, the timing of the meal, style of dinner, etc. Folks in the hospitality industry sometimes use the term “banqueting” in place of “banquet service.” For example, hotel banqueting refers to any food service in an area that’s not a typical dining space or restaurant.

Types of banquets

There are many types of banquets (or types of banqueting, since I don’t want to upset the concierge). The style of food service you select depends on the kind of event you wish to have and how formal it should feel. Also, food varies greatly from one banquet setting to another. Before committing, ask your venue or caterer if they have sample banquet menus.

  • Reception: For a reception, the venue places a few tables (generally three to six, depending on the size of the crowd) in strategic locations around the room. Guests serve themselves as they mingle and chat. The food is typically appetizers, small desserts, and finger sandwiches. Servers ensure that the tables remain stocked and remove discarded plates and glasses. An alternative is to ditch the tables and have servers walk through the crowd with food trays. This option adds an air of formality, but somehow, every server who passes by me only has stuffed mushrooms, and I never even see the goat cheese-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates.
  • Food stations: The main difference between reception-style and food stations is the variety of cuisine. Instead of tables filled with little nibbler trays, many food stations are managed by chefs who serve food to the guests, such as a pasta bar, fresh sushi area, or prime rib station. Despite the variety, the servings remain small so guests can eat while they mingle.
  • Buffet: For a buffet banquet setup, the kitchen prepares large amounts of entrees and sides and places each type of food in long, deep platters known as chafing dishes. Chafing dishes rest on a stand with a lit can of slow-burning, jellied alcohol underneath to keep the food warm. Buffets are usually used for informal, sit-down meals where guests can serve themselves whenever they like (and eat as much as they want).
  • Cafeteria-style: The main difference between buffet and cafeteria-style is that the guests do not have access to the food. Instead, as guests line one side of the table, servers stand on the other and prepare plates of food. Cafeteria-style is used for slightly more formal meals than buffets, where guests eat simultaneously (relatively; for large crowds, it’s not uncommon that those who hit the table early finish their meals as the line dwindles with latecomers).
  • Plated: The most formal banquet setting, once guests sit down for dinner, they don’t need to get up again. Servers walk among the tables bringing food, filling (and refilling) drink glasses, and removing empty plates. Plated service requires enough kitchen and waitstaff and efficient timing to ensure that everyone is served each course simultaneously, food arrives at the tables at the correct temperature, and the meal is correctly paced.
  • Pre-set service: This is a style of plated service where a course is already on the table as the guests take their seats. The most common options are appetizers, bread, and salads (or some combination of the three). Pre-set service is also used for desserts if it is the only course at an event if there’s a planned break between the entrée and dessert where guests leave their seats.

Options for seating and table banquet setup

Other than your preferred style of food service, few things impact the feel of your banquet setting like the seating and table arrangements. For example, if speeches or toasts play a significant role in the event, you want to ensure that everyone can see the speaker.

  • Open floorplan: An open floorplan is the best option for guests to mingle freely. There are no chairs or tables in the middle of the room. Instead, all seating is in a dedicated area set to the side, apart from the main action. If you’re providing reception-style food tables or food stations, usually they are situated at one end of the venue and the seating is at the other. It is typical for an open floorplan to have more guests than available seating.
  • Banquet style: Guests sit at several round tables that typically seat eight to ten people each for this setup. This style is ideal for events where guests want to move and mingle between tables but also need to sit for a while, such as for dinner or presentations.
  • Wedding style: The only difference between wedding style and banquet style is that the setup includes a rectangular “head” table where the bride, groom, and wedding party sit. Typically, chairs are placed only on one side of the table facing the other tables.
  • Boardroom: For a boardroom setup, place several rectangle tables together to form one big table. Frequently used for corporate events, the boardroom style is also appropriate for smaller, intimate meals or to break one large gathering into several small groups.
  • Family-style: This setup is an evolution from the boardroom style where guests sit at both sides of a long table. Food is served on platters and in large bowls, and the guests serve themselves family-style.
  • T-shaped: Like a boardroom configuration, T-shaped is created by placing several rectangle tables together. This configuration is a little awkward for group conversation but perfect if you’re honoring someone named Teresa or Trevor.
  • Hollow square: Several tables in the shape of a big square with chairs placed along the outside perimeter create this design. This arrangement is perfect for group discussions but not great for speeches or presentations.
  • U-shaped: The U-shaped arrangement removes one side of a hollow square setup, which immediately puts the previously unused space into play. U-shaped tables are ideal for speakers or lectures because the speaker can get close to the attendees and encourage participation and discussion.
  • Classroom: Typically used for corporate events, presentations, meetings, and lectures, the layout of a classroom setup likely won’t surprise you. Tables and chairs are set in rows facing the front of the room. The classroom arrangement is perfect for an audience that needs to focus on a single presentation, but it is not suited to encourage group discussions.

If you need even more help finding the best banquet setting for your event, our event planners in Dallas will help with all aspects of your special occasion. There are many types of banquets, and DFW Celebrations is the perfect venue for all of them. Our venue features multiple ballrooms, tons of free parking, and a team of experienced event planners dedicated to your every need. To schedule a tour, please contact us here.