Event help and wait staff provide extra hands at parties and events, serving food and drinks, clearing away used dishes and glassware, and often cleaning up afterward. A full-service catering company will provide the necessary staff according to an event’s needs and the service contract in place with the customer. For smaller events or if you prepare the food yourself, you may opt to hire a few event helpers to assist with food service or to tend bar. Many catering companies, event planners and bartending services can provide wait staff or bartenders for $20–$30 an hour, depending on a variety of factors.
Type of event
Different types of events require helpers to have different experience and skill sets. The type of event can also dictate their attire. Weddings are generally more formal, for example, and so are some cocktail parties, especially those held in the evening. Some catering companies and staffing services may charge a bit more for formally attired (black-tie) wait staff.
Theme parties may require event staff to dress in a certain way to help bring the party theme to life. Event planners such Edward Sylvia and Salam Woldekidan of CraftyMomDC can help you plan and throw any kind of theme party or special event. Sylvia has a degree in a theater arts and can provide event design and decor services as well as staffing services. Woldekidan can provide wait staff for $30 per staffer per hour, and her day-of wedding coordination packages start at $300.
The more guests you expect, the more wait staff or bartenders you will need. A standard rule is one waiter per table of eight to 12 people for seated dining and two staffers per buffet station. It’s recommended that you have at least one bartender for every 50 to 70 guests—or more if you are serving blender drinks or specialty cocktails with more than three ingredients.
The length of an event also affects cost. A continuous party is straightforward, but some events, such as wedding receptions, may be paced so that wait staff greet guests with glasses of champagne and pass appetizers before guests sit down for the meal. Such details will likely add to your final bill.
Catering services add to your overall cost, and pricing depends on the menu, number of guests, whether you’ll have seated or buffet dining, and other variables. Domestic Affairs Bar and Waitstaff Service charges hourly for event help and wait staff and has a two-person, four-hour minimum. Aiming to work within customers’ budgets, Once Upon an Event of Tampa Bay can create custom packages for catering services, full or partial day-of event coordination, and complete event-planning services.
Generally, the more services a company provides—both catering and decor, for example—the higher the overall costs. Doris Reid-Worthington, owner of Now That Was a Great Party, helps clients plan and orchestrate events for 20 percent of the total event cost and offers day-of event coordination services starting at $100 an hour. Chef Tim offers event catering with full staffing starting at $350 plus food costs. Bartenders Unlimited of Ohio provides bartenders and wait staff for almost any size event and the hourly rate per staff member goes down once a certain number of hours rae reached.
Party hosts can provide the food and beverages themselves and then hire wait staff services a la carte. Hiring the helpers this way costs less than if the service provider also prepares all the food and drinks. Extra Hands Catering specializes in helping clients who like to cook and entertain but would rather pay someone else to handle the the setup, food service and cleanup. KT’s Hospitality is primarily a bartending service, but owner Katie Martinson can provide wait staff for events for $25 an hour per staff member.
Certification and licensing
Many states require bartending services and caterers to have liquor licenses to prepare and serve alcoholic beverages. Texas requires bartenders to have Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) certification, as all of the bartenders employed by Domestic Affairs Bar and Waitstaff Service do. Catering employees may also need safe food-handling certification. Now That Was a Great Party’s Reid-Worthington has ServSafe Manager certification. (The National Restaurant Association's ServSafe program provides food safety training, exams and educational materials to food-service managers.)
The best way to save money when wait staff is to provide as many details as possible about your event to the service provider upfront. Giving this information also helps ensure that they don't send too many or too few staffers to your event.