Given that many venues are booked years in advance, the highest priority when planning a banquet should be given to selecting and reserving a site for your event. Here we will review key criteria in choosing a facility, the types of venues available, and things to look for during an in-person inspection.

Choosing A Banquet Facility

Geographical Location:

Obviously, you will want to consider the proximity of your banquet facility to your guests, but also think about the location of needed services, accessibility and set-up. Key services that may be applicable to your event include the airport, hotel accommodations and related events before or after the banquet.

Also be conscious of how guests will get to the facility including the complexity of directions, accessibility to key thoroughfares and entry and exit points. Depending upon the time of day, it may be beneficial to hire a police officer to direct traffic for easier access.

Finally, consider who and how often someone will need to travel to the banquet site for set-up. Specifically, how much equipment is being delivered, if there are no kitchen facilities, how far the caterer needs to travel, and access for the talent to rehearse.

Size & Seating:

Determine the specific events and areas you are planning for the banquet along with the minimum and maximum number of guests you expect to attend to ascertain how much space you will need. From here you can map out how the event will flow, as well as the size and arrangement of your banquet tables. Key areas to plan for:
  • Coat check
  • Registration
  • Pre-dinner reception
    • Hors d’oeuvres
    • Bar/Cocktails
  • Food Tables
    • Buffet
    • Carving Station
    • Dessert
    • Drinks
    • Coffee
  • Head Table
  • Presentation & Entertainment
    • Podium
    • Stage
  • Dance Floor
  • Special Requirements
    • Gifts/Favors
    • Prizes
    • Auction
    • Photos
Plan your seating according to the type of banquet, number of attendees, table size and shape. There are several configurations to choose from:

Banquet seating uses round or oblong tables evenly spaced throughout the designated area. The table size and shape may be determined by what the banquet facility provides or you may choose round tables that seat 6, 8 or 10 persons each. Oblong (rectangle) tables are available in 6-8 and 8-10 person sizes depending upon if you seat a person at each end.

Classroom style will allow all attendees to face forward and uses oblong tables positioned straight or angled with 4 to 6 persons on one side.

Conference style arranges oblong tables together to make one large rectangle with the guests all facing inward.

U-Shape and double-u are common for banquets involving a presentation and discussion. As the name implies, the u-shape arranges oblong tables to make a giant u, leaving one end open. The double-u arranges oblong tables in the shape of one u inside another and accommodates a larger number of guests.

Hollow Square uses oblong tables to make a large square with attendees facing inward. This is an effective arrangement for banquets focused on discussion.

Accommodations, Facilities & Services:

Consider the building accommodations, amenities, and services each facility includes, offers for an additional charge, or requires for an additional charge. For example, some venues require that you use their kitchen and staff for food service, while, at the other extreme, others may not have a kitchen. Building accommodations you may require:
  • Kitchen, food staging, clearing
  • Bar(s)
    • Built-in
    • Portable
  • Meeting or function rooms
  • Green room for talent
  • Restrooms, especially for outdoor events
  • Parking, drop-off
  • Handicap access
Many sites provide additional facilities that offer convenience and make coordinating the set-up and breakdown much easier. Equipment and amenities that you may require include:
  • Outlets
  • Stage/Raised Head Table
  • Lighting
  • Sound System
  • Equipment
    • Tables & chairs
    • Audio/Visual
      • Mics, PA
      • Projector, Screen
    • Podium
    • Piano
In addition to the building and equipment, many facilities offer or require that you use their staff and/or services or choose from a list of approved vendors. When evaluating the cost of these services, it is also a good idea to research the reputation and quality through references and online reviews. Key services include:
  • Food service/catering
  • Bar service
  • Coat check
  • Security, traffic control
  • Valet/Parking

Finally, remember your banquet is a direct reflection on you and your organization, so consider the environment of your selected facility. Look at these key points from the guests’ perspective:
  • Safety & security
  • Traffic
  • Aesthetics
    • Exteriors
      • Building
      • Landscaping
      • Lighting
    • Surrounding businesses
    • Views
  • Privacy

Types of Venues

There are a number of venues that are well-suited to host a banquet with a wide variety of features and benefits.

Country Club: A country club offers the greatest number of services and amenities in an environment that is private and includes a staff that is dedicated to the satisfaction of you and your guests. However, the country club often books up far in advance and membership is required, of course.

Event Facility: An event facility is likely to offer some or all of the services and amenities you require in an exclusive setting. The downside is that typically an event facility is fairly large and requires you to rent the entire space, which is not feasible for smaller groups.

Hotel: Hotels can accommodate most any size group with limited privacy and a wide range of amenities and services. From economy to luxury, you are likely to find accommodations that fit your budget and needs.

Restaurant: Some restaurants offer banquet rooms or will let you rent out the entire space for special events. When using restaurant banquet rooms, guests will likely have to park, enter and share restrooms with the public, making them much less private. Size and amenities are also limited; however food and bar service is experienced with consistent quality.

Clubhouse: A neighborhood or apartment clubhouse offers a private setting at little or no charge, but will likely require you to arrange all services and most of the equipment. The clubhouse provides a few more bonuses such as, security, parking, views, and/or poolside access.

Church: Churches are available to members for gatherings and offer an economical alternative. Decor and amenities are lacking, but tables and chairs are usually available.

Business or School: The hosting business or school is also a free alternative that includes tables, chairs, and audio/visual equipment. All other services and equipment would probably have to be coordinated and arranged.

Community Center: Municipal auditoriums and community centers provide space for a fee and may include tables and chairs. Decor, amenities and services would need to be arranged separately.

Pavilion: Outdoor pavilion/park makes a unique and fun gathering location with little to no facilities or extras. Some locations may necessitate that you arrange portable restrooms and electricity, in addition to all other equipment and services you require.

Barn: A barn is a great setting for a country/western theme, but like a pavilion may require portable restrooms and electricity, in addition, to vehicle and/or pedestrian access and parking.

Banquet Facility Inspection

Finally, after you have conducted phone interviews to check rates, availability, size, and amenities, you should arrange for an in person visit to evaluate and discuss:
  • Services and equipment provided by the facility
  • Layout and flow
  • Staging of food and talent
  • Lighting, audio visual needs
  • Electrical needs
  • Parking/transportation needs
  • Loading, unloading
  • Access for set-up and rehearsal
  • Hours music can play
  • Permits, restrictions, insurance required
  • Contract

Next blog:  With the banquet facility selected, you're next step in planning a banquet is fundraising, if applicable.

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