Post # 1
I’m in the mid-stages of researching caterers, and have been absolutely floored by the astronomical prices and the disparities in different companies.
From the general research I’ve done, I’ve found that 1 server per 35 guests is normal for a buffet-style event, whereas 1 server per 15 guests is more the norm for a plated event. Additionally, for bartenders you can expect about 1 ‘tender per 75 people. Granted, this has all been deduced from general internet searches, so if anyone has better information, please let me know.
I am expecting about 150 people and would like to do a casual buffet-style dinner. I told the caterer that I would like to keep it down to 65/pp, which she adhered to for food, but then blasted me with $10,000 in staff charges. She is claiming that it is necessary to have 12 waitstaff, 12 kitchen staff, 3 bartenders, and 1 floor manager – all compensated for 10 hours of work. She tried to convince me that this is completely normal, but using a bit of logic I think we can all agree that it’s not (e.g. bartenders and waitstaff won’t be working for 10 hours, and how can you even fit 12 kitchen staff in one caterer’s kitchen).
I understand that prices can be higher in different geographic locations (I’m getting married on Martha’s Vineyard), but this just seems obscene. I’m trying to be forward and navigate this appropriately, but am getting frustrated with caterers trying to convince me that it’s “normal” to charge such obscene amounts. Can anyone help me out?
Post # 3
Whoa. Since my catering cost per person is less than half of yours, it may be that your “casual” and my “casual” are totally different things (or probably it’s a function of Martha’s Vineyard), but… that seems crazy.
With that said, I’m anticipating 80-100 people, and my caterer said she would need 6 people to do that. As far as I know, that includes kitchen help, servers, and bartending. I guess she would fill the role of “floor manager”, and she’ll have them there an hour before we start and an hour after for set-up/clean-up. That was a little more than I was expecting, but it makes logical sense and she broke it down for me very well.
So considering you’re expecting about 150 and it may be more complicated than my reception, I can see she might need like 10 waitstaff and 2 bartenders, but it’s the kitchen staff thing that blows my mind. Somebody set me right if I’m wrong, but… shouldn’t kitchen staff be part of the food cost? Something about that just seems crazy to me. And I agree that I don’t know where she would even put 12 of them. And what, are they supposed to just cook furiously for 10 hours? Kind of preposterous.
I am starting to understand that some prep/clean-up time needs to be build in, but yeah, this sounds out of hand. I hope you have other catering options and can find someone who understands what a casual buffet is.
Post # 4
I’m probably not the best to ask since I was able to find an amazing and yet very inexpensive caterer. All said and done with everything including tip and 3 servers for 76 people, we paid $1400 for our catering. I can’t come close to imagining having to have THAT many people in the kitchen or even server wise for that matter!!
And are you serious? It’s really $10,000 for just the wait/kitchen/bar/head honcho staff? Jeez! I want to work there and get $35 per hour! I am in the WRONG career field apparently!
Post # 5
i dont think you are supposted to have to pay for the employees to work, they are employees of the catering company… not you!…. im pretty sure you just pay per person and a service charge (ours is 21% — yikes!) but i thought that was the norm.
Post # 6
@kolsen206: We did. But it was a muuuuch more reasonable $15 per person per hour and our caterer gave us a deal of 3 servers for the price of 2. We could have avoided those fees by only having them come and set up and not serve, but it was worth it to me to have the servers for the cost she gave us!
Post # 7
I know my area is quite a bit cheaper than your area, but with a buffet dinner we are paying per head, and thats it. Our caterer is one of the more upscale ones in our area, and hiring our bartenders through another company, but still WAY cheaper and less staff. We are paying $35/person for dinner, includes staff, and waiters walking around to clean up and fill water. Our bartenders fee (before drinks) is $500. (2 bartenders + head honcho sounds right to me for that area.. I have 200, and same)
I think that that area they can get away from it. I am wondering if you can hire an outside area caterer and usually they just charge more for travel time?? That just sounds really wrong to me