One of the truths in the catering business is that presentation can be as important as the taste of the food. If your banquet table looks stunning, the food will benefit by being well received. There are no hard and fast rules to laying out multiple dishes for a banquet setting, but there are a few guidelines you can be aware of that enhances presentation and allows your guests easy access to fabulous dishes.
Accommodate the number of plates with a large enough table. You don't want to cram 15 dishes onto a table suitable for only eight. Having plenty of room in between dishes gives guests room to set their drink or plate down while they help themselves. Not having every inch of space filled with food also allows room for decorating.
Elevate some of the dishes to give variety to the layout of your table. This can be done by using small platforms underneath the tablecloth - a sturdy box, books, a small wooden crate - it's not important what you use as long as the dish fits on it. You probably don't want to elevate a dish that has to be heated or that the guest has to cut to get at, like a cheese dish. Choose something that can be easily grabbed with the fingers, like vegetables or cookies.
Arrange the food in relative groups. In other words, place the crackers next to the cheeses; the fruits next to the desserts. The main course is generally the first thing displayed with the side dishes following suit. A banquet table that is focusing on just desserts or appetizers can be arranged according to visual appeal; try to break up two dishes that look similar such as a plate of white, frosted cookies and a white cake.
Mirror the plates. You want your guests to be able to file quickly along the banquet table. By having two of each dish on either side of the table, people can form two lines. Another advantage is that this arrangement makes the table look visibly abundant, turning six dishes into 12.
Decorate your table. This does not have to be fancy; just something to break up the long series of plates. A flower centerpiece can be used in the middle of the table, and use loose flowers or blossoms in between the other dishes to complete the pattern.