How to plan the perfect banquet event
Banquets have hit the event mainstream again. The nation’s love of good food, good drink and a glamorous atmosphere has lead to this indulgent communal feast dominating the events sector.
And with good reason! Banquets are popular because they effortlessly give an event a focus, whether it’s a party, a ceremony or a dinner dance. The act of sitting and dining brings people together to feast and chinwag, offering somewhere relaxed and natural for people to network at ease.
But how do you pull off a truly spectacular banquet when so many of them are being thrown? How do you make yours stand out from the well-dressed crowd?
In this guide, we’re going to highlight everything you need to know in order to pull off a magnificent banqueting event – and how you can make yours as memorable as possible. Find out how University of London Venues can make your banquet a spectacular event.
Juggling the various tasks that come with organising a banquet can be a serious undertaking; so careful consideration and planning must be implemented from the onset of the process.
Planning a banquet: The to do list
Consider this guide your comprehensive banquet planning to-do list. Each of the below sections are aspects you need to consider during the planning process. Click on the buttons below to find out more about each section.
How to manage your banquet budget
Keeping to an event budget is crucial to planning success. Whether you’re a seasoned event professional, brand new to the industry, or have simply found yourself planning an event for your company or social group, this is a good lesson to learn quickly.
The three main areas that you should allocate the bulk of your budget to are:
- The venue
- The catering & drink
- The entertainment
But this is by no means where the budget ends. You also need to consider:
- Guest transport to the venue
- Hospitality staff
- Event management
- Event insurance
At the start of the planning process, research how much money you’ll need for each of the different areas and distribute your budget to each of the sections accordingly. This will allow you to manage each section individually. Learn more about Bloomsbury Venues room capacities and pricing.
Making a profit
Many banqueting events are organised for profit purposes. If this is the case, decide what return on investment you want to achieve as soon as you have your total budget allocated. This calculation will help you decide how you should price event sponsorship or tickets.
When planning an event for profit, keep in mind that spending money makes money. Guests are far more likely to pay to attend an event with highly appealing food and entertainment, so don’t be afraid to allocate a large bulk of your budget to this. Create an event that guests can’t refuse!
The purpose of your banquet
Banquets are commonly thrown as a way to celebrate a key event, achievement or success. This makes them particularly popular with corporate sectors, although they’re equally good at bringing people with a common theme or interest together.
Whatever the purpose is, it’s important that it resonates throughout the entire event – from the invitation/ticket right down to the speeches and entertainment.
Some common reasons to throw a banquet are:
- To celebrate a key employee's retirement
- To bring social/local club members together
- Christmas party
- Birthday party
- Engagement party
- To celebrate corporate success
- Annual work party
- Charity fundraising (Take a look at our article on how to plan a charity dinner dance)
Contact our conference and events team to find out how we can help you host the perfect banquet.
The Banquet's Theme
When deciding how to theme your banquet, it’s important to think how it will impact other planning decisions you’ll have to make further down the line. Event themes impact the style of food you provide, the drinks, the dress code and even the venue – all of which you’ll need to consider in your overall budget.
If it’s appropriate, you can have some fun with your banquet theme, creating a culinary experience for your guests that’s both delicious and out of the ordinary. You can also be inventive with the venue decoration to create an immersive environment for you guests to dine and socialise in. Some popular theme ideas are:
- Alice in Wonderland
- 1920s Prohibition
- Hollywood / Celebrity
- Masquerade Ball
- Charlie & The Chocolate Factory
- Medieval Banquet
However, if out-there themes aren’t appropriate for your event, many banquets employ the traditional ‘black tie’ theme. This theme is perfect for all purposes as it allows guests to dress up glamorously and event décor to be impressive, whilst creating a more formal environment suitable for work/corporate events. Find out more about the do's and don'ts to ensuring a successful event.
The banquet's location and venue
There are many things to consider when choosing your event venue. Not only does event room hire take up a huge proportion of your budget, but the venue also has to tick a lot of boxes that you might not have contemplated.
Choose an appropriate event location
Firstly, you need to consider how easy it will be for your guests to find and travel to the venue. It’s wise to choose somewhere close to where the majority of your guests live, or somewhere that has extremely good transport links.
The venue also needs to be somewhere your suppliers can easily access with any equipment, so you must consider loading or parking space near by.
Make sure your venue matches your theme
Your venue speaks volumes about the calibre of the event. When organising a banquet for profit, a well-known venue is likely to convert better in terms of ticket sales. However, you should also consider how the venue relates to your theme. If you are going for a opulent black tie theme, chose a venue that emits a sense of glamour and class. Likewise, if your theme is slightly out-there, find a more out-there venue to suit.
Find out if your venue offers any inclusive extra services
When booking your venue, it’s crucial you consider the extra services that the venue may offer aside from room hire. This will impact your budget and potentially allow you to kill two birds with one stone!
Many event venues provide a catering package, event insurance, hospitality staff and even an event planner! If it’s within your budget to do so, employing the venue to manage some of these aspects can make the event easier to run. It can also make the budget easier to manage.
The catering and food menu
Banquets are all about the food, so it’s essential that a lot of thought be put into the menu! Be sure to include a choice of courses, along with options for those with special dietary requirements. It is good practice to have guests RSVP with their menu choice in advance of the event so the right amount of each course is prepared.
Who caters your event?
You have some choices when it comes to choosing your catering. Some event planners outsource catering to external catering companies, whereas others opt for the venue’s in-house team. If your menu is a relatively classic one, the latter option can be safer as the catering team are likely to be more familiar with the kitchen. Conversely, if you have a specialised menu that a particular catering team would be more suitable for, then look into outsourcing the catering team. Find out more about the University of London Venues catering services.
Things to Consider:
- Check if your catering team provide hospitality staff.
- Check if all cutlery and crockery are included.
- Check if they cater for most common dietary preferences.
Drink is as important to the banquet as the food, but the expense of alcoholic drinks can impact your budget.
Ways to provide beverages
The venue or drinks provider can quote for a free bar where guests have unlimited access to soft drinks, beer, wine and single measures of spirits. For the ultimate guest experience, providing an unlimited bar is best. However, if you don’t have the budget to provide all the drink for the duration of the evening, it’s common practice to at least provide wine at the table while your guests are eating. You can then provide a bar where they can purchase additional beverages.
If your guests are paying to attend the banqueting event, consider absorbing the cost of the free bar within their ticket price. This allows your guests to pay for their drinks in advance of the event and will potentially attract more paying attendees.
The banquet dress code
It’s common practice to insist that banquet guests adhere to a strict dress code as it heightens the overall atmosphere and experience of the event. For slightly wacky themes and dress codes, the more effort your guests put into their appearance, the more enjoyable they’ll find the event.
As previously mentioned, a smart dress code such as ‘black tie’ is considered the most natural theme for a banquet. This works very well for all event purposes, as it still allows guests to go all out on their attire, but maintains a formal feel if necessary.
Once you have chosen your dress code, it’s crucial you outline the thorough details on the invitation/ticket to avoid guests arriving over or under dressed.
The guest list and invitees
The guest list will be determined by the purpose of the event. Whatever the purpose, be sure to include a relevant group of people, offering plus ones where appropriate. It’s also crucially important you take care not to leave anyone out.
Corporate or business banquets
If you’re throwing a corporate banquet to applaud an individual or celebrate business success (the planning dos & don’ts of which can be found) then it’s important you invite everyone who works at the company. Omitting people from a grand event can drag down company morale, and it’s important everyone feels the benefit of your company’s success.
Family/social club banquet
Perhaps you’re the chair of a local theatre/tennis/social club and have been tasked with arranging a banquet to bring the members together. As this is a more casual event, be sure to invite member’s partners, as well as retired or previous members of the club.
Banquets for profit
If you’re running your event to create a profit, then you might need to invest in some external marketing to get people interested in attending your banquet. Spend some of your overall budget showcasing what your event has to offer in terms of venue, theme, and entertainment. Using social media to target your preferred audience can have some great results, while advertising in local papers or newspapers and investing in event PR can also be a good avenue to explore. Separately, you can offer external companies the opportunity to purchase tables in bulk or even get local companies to sponsor the banquet.
The master of ceremony and speakers
It’s important that the guests feel guided through the different stages of your banqueting event, so employ a master of ceremony to manage the flow of events and keep the atmosphere alive. It’s important that you have an experienced master of ceremony whose approach is line with the overall theme, is entertaining and can manage time well.
Their job is to:
- Alert guests to when dinner is served
- Introduce guest speakers
- Introduce entertainment
- Give thanks to any sponsors
- Guide guests through the different sections of the event
Before, during and after the grub is served, your guests expect to be entertained. Entertainment can come in many forms, and depends hugely on your budget. However, many event organisers chose:
- Live music
- Stand up comedy
- Stand up Magicians
- Circus acts
- One-on-one entertainment such as magicians or fortune-tellers.
Make sure your entertainment is in-line with your theme, and work with the master of ceremony to integrate it effortlessly into the overall flow of the event.
The banquet décor
When it comes to decorating your venue, you must consider your chosen theme and how much of your budget you wish to allocate to the overall décor.
Decorating the venue
If you choose a relatively plain venue, you might find that you need to dedicate more thought and budget into creating an elegant and memorable environment. Rooms with less innate character tend to require more attention when it comes to decoration. On the other hand, selecting a venue that is more architecturally attractive may cost more to hire, but won’t require as much decorating.
It’s important that a lot of attention is paid to the tables, as this is where the guests will spend the majority of their time. Ensure you dedicate great thought into making these areas as attractive as possible. Centrepieces, favours and table covers should be included when planning the table décor.
More elaborate themes will call for more elaborate decorations and props, so consider how much décor you’ll need to bring your chosen theme to life.
The table and seating plan
The bulk of a banqueting event takes place behind a table, and where people sit will makes a big impact on their experience of the event.
If it’s a corporate event, you can explore two avenues.
- Seat people as per their work teams. This will help sectionalise the team in a way that they are used to.
- Mix things up and place people with colleagues they might not normally have much contact with – this could be a good way of bringing the team together!
Plan based on table
For paying guests you can charge more or less depending on where they want to sit. It’s common to auction off whole tables, allowing guests to purchase a ticket for a group of people and populate the seats with their subsequent guests themselves.
Transportation and logistics
It’s important that you provide your guests with detailed information about where the banquet venue is located, how they can get there, along with any other information about public transport or recommended taxi companies. If you have chosen to provide transport yourself, include details of this within the invitation/ticket.
As mentioned in the ‘Venue and Location section’, it’s important you communicate with any outsourced companies to ensure they know how to get to the venue and can park to load any equipment.
The importance of event insurance
Planning a successful banquet requires a huge amount of time, thought and of course, money. As with anything in life, you never know what cards you will be dealt, so be sure to cover your event for any mishaps such as:
- Requiring emergency staff or services due to being let down at the last moment. (Replacement staff will likely to cost more at such a short notice)
- Your event venue cancels last minute
After spending hours of time and vast amounts of money on planning your event, it’s highly advisable to invest in some financial protection.
Other things to consider
Table gifts are a great touch - especially if you want to convey a personal message to your guests
Document your evening! Include a photographer in the budget so your guests can remember the evening forever more.
If your event is corporate, encourage networking after the meal and entertainment by hosting after dinner network drinks.
Banquets at University of London Venues
Senate House, our flagship venue is an Art Deco building located in the heart of London. Our grand and opulent event venue is the perfect location to host lavish banqueting events, and our in-house catering team offer a truly superb menu to suit any taste.
Our range of luxurious rooms provides the perfect setting for your party, whatever the size. Whether you’re planning a huge corporate event or a more intimate affair, get in touch with our expert event planners today and discover how University of London Venues can complete your banqueting event.