The staff at an event becomes the first line of defense between the kitchen and guests. Your staff should be capable, professional individuals with experience. It is customary to require at least two years experience from a server or bartender to be qualified for a position. Bussers, hosts, and food runners are considered entry-level positions and are not required to have experience before being hired.
Choosing your servers for particular events can be challenging. Servers should be able to read guests and adjust service accordingly. Unfortunately, this does not always occur. When designing your server stations, keep in mind server strengths and weaknesses. For example, a more exuberant server should be stationed to interact with the guests at a wine station. A quieter, more reserved server would do well as the lead server for dinner. A shy server with less experience may exceed as a back server with less responsibilities and out of the spotlight.
What if my client asks for a receipt for vendor services?
A cashed check will act as a receipt to satisfy your client. Credit card transactions come with two receipts, one of which you can give to your client. Your client may look for something substantial, so your vendor may authorize you to write “paid” on the final invoice upon receipt of a check.
An industry formula calls for one server for every twenty guests. The guest-per-server ratio can increase a bit for a cocktail party. For a coursed dinner, you may consider more support staff depending on the expectation of the level of service. A five-course fine dining menu for forty guests may require a back server and busser.
Designing an efficient server station can be a bit of a juggling act. To set up an efficient operation, station servers at different places at different times in the event. For example, server A can be stationed to pass cocktails at the beginning of the event and switch to a lead server when the guests are seated for dinner. Server B can assist with coat check at the beginning and end of the event and switch to a back server when the first course is served.
A back server is an industry term for an assistant server. Back servers tend to have less experience than lead servers. However, some servers with many years of experience prefer to be back servers to a lead server. A back server position is a great way to transition a staff member from a food runner or host into a server position.
Bartenders are known for their robust personalities. The bartenders on your staff should be no exception. In addition to a winning personality, a bartender should also be quick, talented, and experienced. Much like a server, a bartender should know how to read a guest. Bartenders also have the challenge of making small talk with guests. Knowing when to make a quick exit from a lengthy conversation to serve another guest can also be a challenge for a bartender.
When hiring bartenders for an event, an industry standard suggests three to five years experience for cocktail service. The standard fluctuates slightly for wine and beer only service. In event planning, some staff members cross over from servers to bartenders for simple mixed-drink service.
When serving alcohol at an event, arm your entire staff with the procedures for handling intoxicated guests. Offer water or a nonalcoholic beverage first. Alert the manager on duty before cutting off a guest. Attempt to put the guest in a cab or nearby hotel. Call the valet and security if the guest attempts to retrieve his car.
Upon checking into the event, the designated bartenders should stay behind the bar for most of the evening. One bartender may float on the floor to help serve meals. But for the most part, bartenders should be a constant face behind the bar in one station. The reasons for this are to maintain a high level of service and to keep track of the number of drinks guests are being served.
Additional Support Staff
Depending on the type of event you have planned, you may need to employ additional support staff to support the servers and bartenders. Because support staff positions do not require previous experience, the pay tends to be less. An industry standard is half of the salary of a server and bartender.
Coat check personnel: Checks the coats of each guest. A standard system of coat check is giving each guest a ticket to claim his coat at the end of the evening. A coat check employee may make an hourly wage and additionally collect tips from each guest. A coat check employee may not share in the gratuity from the event.
Valet: Usually a private licensed company provides employees. Valet companies carry additional insurance and screen the driving records of each employee. Valet employees are usually tipped separately by the guests and are not part of the tip pool for the event.
Host: Greets the guests at an event. May manage the venue's phone calls as well as take reservations if the venue is a restaurant. The host is usually paid hourly and does not get a portion of the gratuity from the event.
Busser: This employee clears tables at an event. Bussers make an hourly wage and are tipped employees.
Food runner: The main objective for a food runner is to serve, or run, dishes to guests. A food runner may also support the servers by pouring water and clearing dishes during downtime. A food runner is paid by the hour and is entitled to a percentage of the event's gratuities.
Bar back: This employee supports the bartenders. Some of his duties may include getting ice, stocking the bar, and washing glassware. Bar backs are paid hourly and share in an event's gratuities.
The pay structure for your company may determine how your staff is paid. Some events may pay a straight hourly salary. Some events may pay hourly plus gratuities. Other events may pay minimum wage plus gratuities. Check with your company's personnel department to determine the pay scale for your company. Double-check this information with your area's labor commission.