Banquet Seating & Decor: How to Set Up for Holiday Parties

The Thanksgiving and holiday seasons are popular for parties, large family style get-togethers, and end-of-year banquets.  If your restaurant, social hall, or club is taking reservations for private parties, you might be wondering how best to optimize your space and makeover your banquet room to create a festive but efficient party atmosphere this holiday season.   You’ll also need to make menu, staffing, and decoration decisions.  So let’s get started!

REDEFINE YOUR ROOM’S LAYOUT

Depending on your room dimensions and size of tables, you will have to adjust your space planning to accordingly fit your establishment.  Regardless, there are many ways to transform ordinary folding tables into welcoming places to gather, or rearrange your existing restaurant tables to create a new, more social space, that if done well can be breath taking.  Or, you may prefer to keep your restaurant seating the way it is, especially for less social gatherings or your corporate clients.  Take a look at some of our table layout suggestions, and see which room design will work for the specific parties you’re hosting this season.

The Classic Banquet Set-Up

Using rectangle tables, you can form long rows by butting the tables against each other.  With 8′ tables, you typically can fit 4 seats on each side.  At the joint where the tables adjoin, you may be able to add another seat (shown in red) if you’re short on space or need to fit more bodies in the room.  This should only be done if the extra seating capacity is needed and after you consider each person’s placement.  For example, if every person is going to have a soup bowl, entree dish, water glass, cocktail glass, silverware, name card, and favor, it might be a tight squeeze to add that extra person at the joint.  But if the setting is less formal and offers more room, they should be comfortable with that extra seat added.

Take note that 6-foot tables typically only seat 3 per side, or you can add the extra person where the tables adjoin.

If you need a head table, buffet table, or speaker’s podium, add it at perpendicularly to the other tables for easy viewing.

Setting Up with Banquet Rounds

Round tables offer a more formal look to your banquet space.  Tables that are 5-foot in diameter can seat 8 people, and they are the most commonly used size.  However, you could mix it up and use 4-foot tables, which seat 4 people, or 6-foot tables, which seat 10.

We recommend staggering the rows to maximize the space, verse setting up linear rows of rounds.  It creates a more visually appealing room, as well.

Creating One Large Round Banquet Table

To fit more people at a round table, consider adding four serpentine tables to the outside.  If you use a 60″ table in the middle, you can add four serpentines, each with a 5-foot inner radius, to create a table for at least 16 people.  Don’t need that many seats?  A 48″ round folding table paired with four 8-foot serpentines (4-foot inner radius) creates seating for 14.  As a bonus, the extra distance across the larger table offers an opportunity for a more significant centerpiece.

This set-up might be preferable for a large family enjoying Thanksgiving dinner together.

Creating One Large Rectangular Table

Likewise, you can create a larger rectangular table, too, with just a little ingenuity!  Four 8-foot tables combine to make seating for 20-22 people (depending on if you add a seat where the tables join along the sides).  This arrangement of tables may also be conducive for a large family meal, a conference or meeting, or to maximize space for seating up to 22.

Different U-Shape Configurations


Whether you do seating on both the interior and exterior, or keep guests on the outside only, U-shape configurations can be popular choice for different types of meetings or parties.  You can use serpentine tables to create rounded edges, or you can experiment with different lengths of rectangular tables.

Banquets Can Be Square Sometimes

Here, you can keep everyone along the perimeter.  The inside of the square is empty or hollow, so it’s not always the best way to optimize your space if you need room for a buffet, dance floor, or other party must-haves.  Again, you can round the corners with serpentine shaped tables if preferred.

Using Cocktail Tables for Non-Dinners

If you’re hosting a party that is not a formal sit-down dinner, you may want to offer seating for only half of the guests and provide tall cocktail tables for guests to stand and mingle around while enjoying light hors d’oeurves and their drinks.  This works well for networking events, as well as open house style parties, where not everyone is in the room at the same time.  Using cocktail tables creates a more social environment and allows guests to flow throughout the room or event without being tied to one seat.

Decide how your banquet room can be set up and how many people it can hold.  Offer as many options for your customers, and be willing to rearrange your tables based on their unique needs or type of meeting.  As you’re planning the space, be sure to take into consideration any other furniture you’ll need to set up, such as a buffet, dance floor, podium, A/V equipment, or gift table.

PLANNING THE PARTY MENU

A party of 30? 50? 200? No problem.  There are many options when it comes to your private party menus.  Here are just a few worth considering:

  1. Stick to your regular menu, and staff your restaurant with enough staff to take 30 unique meal orders and push them out of the kitchen simultaneously.
  2. Offer party guests a special, limited menu with only a few meal choices to select from.
  3. Plan the complete menu choices in advance with the person organizing the meal.  They can select three dinner choices from the menu and offer their guests they opportunity to pre-order from those selections.  With a little mark on each person’s name card, serving the right dishes to the right people becomes a cinch.
  4. Prepare the same meal for each guest, as determined by the person organizing the party.
  5. Consider family style dinners, where guests share larger portions amongst each other.
  6. Set up a buffet instead of serving the meal. Or, you can use a buffet to house the appetizers instead of butlering them before you serve dinner, or you can use a dessert buffet after you serve the dinner, so your staff aren’t serving every course.

Worried you’re not sure how much food to serve?  Be sure to check out our helpful resources pin board to find the answers!  We’ll show you how much cake you’ll need, how to stock your bar, and even how to set the table.

Talk about bar options before the party with the event organizer.  Is it an open bar? A cash bar?  Is it fully stocked?  Is it beer and wine only?  Alcohol is one of the most expensive items on your menu, so make sure both you and the organizer are in agreement over what type of bar you’re having the night of the party.

Depending on the number of guests, the type of menu and meal options you decide on, and whether your restaurant is open for normal business during the time of the party, you’ll have to consider the amount of staff you need to have on hand.

DECORATE & ENTERTAIN

It’s time for the finishing touches!  Be astonishing and add those details that really make your guests “ooh” and “ahh” when they walk in that front door!  Whether it’s a traditional cornucopia or a contemporary dash of glitter and glam, you want the party-goers to feel special. Take the extra steps to add some decorations, centerpieces, or holiday charm to the room. You’ll also want to consider if you’re using linens on the tables, chair covers, or if you need to secure stack chairs, folding chairs or Chiavari chairs for the special event. Maybe you need to find a holiday station on the music platform you subscribe to for entertainment, or book a live band for your guests’ enjoyment. And don’t forget to train your staff to be courteous and cheerful, so the party is a hit for everyone in attendance!

It’s the extra steps you’ll take that will set you apart from your competition and get a repeat booking for next year’s celebration!

On behalf of everyone at East Coast Chair & Barstool, we wish you a very happy, joyful, and peaceful Thanksgiving. May you have many blessings to count and a successful holiday season!

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