23 Staff to cater 150 person buffet wedding???

posted 1 year ago in Food
  • poll: Is it normal for a caterer to nearly double the cost of buffet w/ staffing costs & service charges?
    Yes : (10 votes)
    50 %
    No : (10 votes)
    50 %
  • Post # 2
    Member
    1081 posts
    Bumble bee

    How many guests? How many stations at your buffet that need attending? 

     

    20% service charge is very standard.

    Post # 3
    Member
    6162 posts
    Bee Keeper
    • Wedding: January 2017

    View original reply
    aa78912 :  have you looked at other catering options? Just because this one is the venues “preferred caterer” doesn’t mean you have to go with them. I’d get quotes from other caterers but keep in mind that the gratuity is standard and that there will be an extra fee for event insurance if you go with an outside caterer. GL

    Post # 4
    Member
    5013 posts
    Bee Keeper

    Well, I think it’s unusual to bill per hour for the cooks.  The only time I’ve seen cooks billed per hour is when there are stations (omelet, pasta, carving, etc.).  Otherwise, that’s usually built into the price of the food, so I probably would have expected to see a higher price tag on surf and turf than $30 to build in labor costs on that.  

    As for the rest, it’s really variable by what kind of buffet you’re having.  A very basic informal buffet where people are serving themselves from a single line of food would require two servers for the first 25 people and then an additional server per 20-25 people thereabouts.  If people are being served off the line, then you’ll need more servers.  If you’re having stations (carving, pasta, etc.) then you’d likely need a cook and a dedicated server for each station.  If you aren’t having stations with active cooking, but are dividing up your buffet line into stations (i.e. the salad line is off to the left, entrees and sides to the right, etc.) you’ll need a dedicated server for each regardless of whether people are serving themselves.  If servers are going to be refilling water, coffee, or wine carafes at the table, setting out salads tableside or refilling bread baskets, you’re looking at one server for about every 10-12 people instead of 20-25, and usually a waitstaff captain when you have 5 or more servers.

    That said, depending on location and formality, I don’t think $93/pp is necessarily extreme.  It would be for many places where I live in the Midwest, but would be downright cheap at more formal places here and on the east coast.  It’s just that normally all of this is rolled into a single cost (or single cost plus percentage service fee) and you don’t see the breakdown.

    I will say, depending on the formality of your dinner, I would caution against going less than 1 server per 20-25 people for a buffet.  I’ve seen the disasterous results of when people try to get by with less thinking “It’s a buffet, people are serving themselves!”  It usually results in hungry people standing a long time in line for things to get replenished and people getting frustrated when dishes and glasses are piling up and crowding the table because the servers can’t clear them fast enough. 

    So at a minimum for the most basic of buffets, precooked and arriving in a hotbox, no table service except for clearing plates, I would expect no less than 7 servers and one captain plus a catering manager and three bartenders if liquor is served, two if only beer and wine.  Then depending on whether any cooking was happening onsite, set-up and level of service I would go up from there.  So I would ask for specifics on who is doing what and the level of service that provides and negotiate from there.

    Post # 5
    Member
    4478 posts
    Honey bee

    $93 including gratuity seems completely reasonable to me. 

    Also, in my area, buffets are the most expensive option. Family style and plated dinners are less expensive, so you may want to inquire.

    Post # 6
    Member
    359 posts
    Helper bee
    • Wedding: December 1969 - Montsalvat, Victoria

    Seems reasonable to me. Similar to pp, buffet is the more expensive option in our area aswell. We are also doing a buffet and it’s $210 p/head however this includes unlimited Alcahol/open bar. 

    Post # 7
    Member
    668 posts
    Busy bee
    • Wedding: May 2020

    We’re having 24 staff total for our 150 person wedding – but it’s passed appetizers, open bar and a plated meal. I don’t know how buffets usually work. Other caterers gave us cheaper quotes with as few as 14 staff – honestly, I thought that was too few! It will cause lines at the bar, traffic jams (people waiting in particular spots to get appetizers) and just overall take longer to serve.  The caterer with more staff said they could serve the salad course in 6-9 min vs the 15 min the other caterer said, as an example.

     

    I personally wanted the extra staff because I think it will make the evening flow smoother – but they are definitely a big part of the increase in price.

     

    Edit: I missed the part about the 20% service charge.  Most of the catering packages I saw included this, plus applicable city/state tax.  I built a “real” proposal in excel so I could see it with all of the charges included, which helped me compare caterers.

    Post # 8
    Member
    5466 posts
    Bee Keeper

    20% is usual but they should have been upfront about staff costs that should have been factored into the per person charge.  

    Post # 9
    Member
    5466 posts
    Bee Keeper

    Oh my bad I thought they didn’t tell you. Sorry. Yes it is normal but I never had a quote broken down into staff and other costs it was just one price. 

    Post # 10
    Member
    1580 posts
    Bumble bee

    I am in the process of booking a vendor outside of Boston and it is $82/ per person for buffet. That includes coffee and tea after, with a selection of breads, 2 entres, a few sides, and 2 apps for cocktail hour. It doesn’t include alcohol. The venue does a 20% service fee so that sounds normal to me. They also have a 7% food tax for state taxes. I’m booking for 2019 so I get a 20% off of my package. They also have 50% off ceremony costs which range from 1,000- 700. Our venue doesn’t go into staff costs or any of that. I believe that is all covered in the price of the per person food cost and the service fee? 

     

     

    View original reply
    aa78912 :  

    Post # 11
    Member
    394 posts
    Helper bee

    Our venue included staff in the initial price they gave us however we got married in a suburban area that charged about $30/per person for buffet it was ridiculously well priced. I would have been very upset if I found out after hearing those numbers it was actually double that because I would have been interested in other venues. I’d look for other caterers if I were you at least to compare! 

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