What to Serve at a Banquet Dinner: Food That Everyone Will Love

a banquet dinner with many menu ideas on different plates

Do you need to plan a party? Do you want to serve great food, but don’t want to break the bank? Don’t worry.  I have you covered.

Today I decided to write about how to throw an old school banquet.

I’m not talking about those medieval banquets you’ve seen in paintings where the king is holding up a massive pheasant leg and guzzling wine out of a jug. I’m talking about the great banquets we used to have when we were kids at the end of the Little League season. They would have them at places like the Irish-American Club, The Elks Club or the local banquet halls.

The food was served either family style or buffet style at these kids’ banquets and it was always really good. What the heck happened to a good old fashioned banquet dinner?

When you go to most events these days, you’ll get a plated meal with a boring piece of meat or fish and some bland vegetables on the side.

I’m all about bringing back a big, fat catered banquet dinner. If I were a banquet organizer and I had to come up with some banquet menu ideas, this is what I would serve.

This menu could be used for any special occasion from an awesome wedding reception to the ultimate dinner party.  It’s going to be loaded with lots of my favorite dishes.

Family Style or Buffet Style?

When you’re planning a big banquet dinner you can choose between two different options. Service can be done family style or buffet style.

A family style banquet is when all of the food is brought to the table in big platters and bowls and the guests pass them around and serve themselves. This is a great way to get your guests to interact with each other during the meal.

The menu items are usually brought out to the tables in courses.

Buffet style is when the food is set up at a table in large trays. The guest will come up to the tables where the food is located, fill their plates and then take it back to their tables.

a buffet style banquet

With buffet style service the guests can either serve themselves or you can have servers behind the table putting the food into the guests’ plates.

Whichever style of service you decide on, the most important thing is that the food is good. Let’s go over some possible menu items for your next banquet dinner.


At a banquet dinner, appetizers are usually served at a cocktail hour. This is right before the dinner is served and it is a time when people can walk around and mingle with a glass of wine or cocktail. Most beverage services will have a couple specialty cocktails, beer, wine and soft drinks.

Here are some appetizers you could serve at your cocktail hour. You’re not serving mini hot dogs at this party.

A cheese platter

Create a beautiful cheese board with a combination of hard and soft cheeses, with fruit, crackers and spreads.

An Antipasto Board

Make a big platter filled with thinly sliced salami, prosciutto, capicola and marinated vegetables. There are so many different Italian meats and vegetables to choose from.

an antipasto board

A Bruschetta Bar

Put out a big spread of toasted slices of bread rubbed with garlic and olive oil. Let people make their own bruschetta with things like marinated tomatoes, white bean salad and peperonata.

a bruschetta bar for a banquet dinner


A large display of fresh vegetables cut into bite sized pieces with a variety of dips is a fun and healthy way to start a banquet meal.

a crudite tray for a banquet dinner menu


An Assortment of Egg Rolls

This is a simple and creative way to make interesting cocktail party food. You can make an egg roll stuffed with so many things. I like making egg rolls filled with chicken parmesan, cheese steak and meatballs. They are fun, delicious and easy to eat while you walk around and talk to your friends.


I always like to give the guests a choice between 2 different salads.

Caesar Salad

A Caesar salad is always a crowd favorite. It’s easy to make a homemade creamy Caesar dressing with parmesan cheese, egg yolks and garlic. You should also have great croutons with a Caesar salad.

Garden Salad

You can’t go wrong with a simple garden salad. I like to use a mix of lettuce containing iceberg, Romaine and mixed greens. Add some red onion, tomatoes and shaved carrot. Put a simple vinaigrette and a creamy blue cheese dressing on the table and let the guest choose their favorite.

Greek Salad

Just add some olives, feta cheese and dried oregano to the garden salad and turn it into a Greek salad.

Main Course

The main course at a banquet dinner should be something really hearty that the guests will remember. There should also be plenty of whatever you decide to serve. It’s better to have too much food than not enough. People can always take home the leftovers.


I like to serve big platters of pasta with tomato sauce. I suggest using a ziti or rigatoni because it’s easier to eat and serve than a long pasta.

Meatballs and Sausages

Load up big trays of homemade meatballs and Italian sausage smothered in tomato sauce. This is food everyone loves.

Stuffed Chicken Breast

One of my favorite banquet foods is boneless chicken breast stuffed with prosciutto, cheese, spinach and roasted peppers. Lightly coat the stuffed chicken in breadcrumbs and bake in the oven in a white wine sauce.

Roast Pork

Roast pork is delicious and will keep the menu prices down. Get a pork tenderloin and season it with salt, pepper, fennel and rosemary. Slice it thin and let the guest fill their plates.

Pot Roast

I like making my pot roast a little different than a traditional version. I let it braise for hours in red wine and tomatoes until it falls apart when you pull it with a fork.

Eggplant Parmesan

It’s always good to have some vegetarian options. Fried eggplant layered with tomato sauce, cheese and bakes in the oven is perfect for a banquet style dinner.

Side Dishes

Roasted Potatoes

Toss the potatoes in olive oil, garlic and rosemary and cook them in the oven until they get crispy.

Roasted Vegetables

Choose your favorite vegetables like onions, peppers, carrots and Brussels sprouts. Season them well with salt, pepper and garlic and roast them until they get brown and crisp.

Mac and Cheese

Macaroni and cheese casseroles are always a hit. Make the top nice and crispy with bread crumbs and extra cheese.


Any great celebration menu is going to include dessert.

If the banquet is for a wedding, you’re definitely going to have wedding cakes. But it’s always good to have a variety of dessert options.

Have an ice cream sundae bar and let the guests choose their toppings. And put out a big spread of Italian mini pastries like cannoli, tiramisu cups and rum zeppole.

Banquet Dinner Menu Ideas FAQs

How many people are usually served at a banquet style dinner?

A banquet style dinner can serve anywhere from 10 people to 1,000 people in my opinion. It’s important that you have a well thought out menu and an organized means of serving everyone.

What is the best type of food to serve at a banquet dinner?

The sky’s the limit when it comes to menu ideas. Planning a banquet menu can be a lot of fun. It’s the type of menu where you don’t have to be fancy and you can serve food that people love.

Can a banquet style menu be served at a wedding?

Absolutely. A banquet style dinner is perfect for a wedding. Putting together wedding menu ideas should be fun.  This is a way to do it without worrying about huge menu prices. The best part about it is that you can keep it as casual and fun as you want it to be.


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