How many servers do you need, anyway?
HI - I am in the process of looking for a caterer. I want to have a "cocktail party" sort of reception for 150 people - limited seating and lots of substantial hors d'ouerves. The first hour, light hors d'oeurves will be passed, for the following two hours, more substantial hors d'ouerves will be on food stations. I have gotten sample menus and quotes from three caterers. While their food ideas and costs have been relatively similar, their recommendations and/or requirements for the number of servers/bartenders/bussers are pretty different. For context, these helpers will not have to do much hands on with the guests - no drink orders - just keeping the food tables fresh and bussing dirty dishes. Here are the three possibilities from the three different caterers I have been in touch with:
-Two servers - cost is 18% of the food bill. Bartenders to be hired by me separately.
-Four servers - cost is 18% of food bill. Two bartenders for $150 each for the night provided by caterer.
-Two bartenders (each $20/hr), three servers (each $20 per hour) and four bussers (each $15/hr). Because my reception is 5 hours long, the caterer thinks all of these people need to be there for a total of about 7 hours.
As you can see, these are pretty different!!! If you add that last one up, the cost for service comes out to be around 33% of the estimated food cost for the night!! It is killing my budget, but the caterer insists that a wedding reception requires that many people. And the thing is, she doesn't seem to be taking a cut of it either - you pay her people directly at the end of the night!
Does anybody have a feel for how many servers/bussers you need for this sort of event? Any tips or things that stand out from this description?
RE: How many servers do you need, anyway?
I've catered weddings, and think that even with the cocktail reception, you need at least 3 servers there- you would be surprised that although they don't have much "hands on" with the guests, between clearing the tables, passing trays, and ensuring that your guests get their needs met (the "picky" people), the service would be extremely poor if you only had 2 servers. You could probably get by with one bartender, depending on the amount of mixed drinks you think that others would need. The seven hours can include set up and break down, and 4 hours of food service- setting up can often take 2 hours, and one hour for break down...