How Many Waiting Staff Do I Need?

How many waiting staff do I need for my event? We get this question asked quite often. Sometimes people that are not used to the events industry forget essential things like: Who will take care of the coats? Who will set up the venue? Who will clear and break down? Who will put the beverages on ice? How far is the kitchen from the dining area? How long will it take to serve everyone? Informing yourself and asking experts is always the best way to find an answer.

Example: One might think that they will need one waiter to serve food on trays for forty people, but what if a guest asks for a soft drink or there is an unexpected dietary requirement? Will this slow down the entire service? Regrettably the answer to this is yes.

We have created a table indicating how many waiting staff one needs in different scenarios, based on London events we have staffed. But before reading it let us write a disclaimer: every event is different and you should ask your caterer and/or staffing agency for their opinion.

We have staffed dinners in London where there were 44 waiting staff, 8 wine waiters, 1 manager and an event organiser for a party of 88 guests. This surely is as good a service as you can get. However, not everyone can afford this waiter/guests ratio. At the other end of the spectrum we have served weddings where there was one waiting staff for every 2 tables (with 10 guests per table) which may be suitable if you are on a budget and are not fussed about having a faultless service as most of your guests are just friends/colleagues just trying to have a good time.

3 course seated dinner for 100 – formal 10 3 0 1 1
3 course seated dinner for 100 – informal 5 0 0 0 1
3 course seated dinner with shared platters for 100 – informal 4 0 0 1 0
Buffet for 100 – informal 5 0 0 1 0
Drinks and canapés with bar for 100 2 1 2 1 0
Champagne and canapés no bar for 100 2 2 0 1 0
3 course dinner for 12 – formal 2 0 0 0 0
3 course dinner for 12 – informal 1 0 0 0 0
Buffet for 25 – informal 1 0 0 0 0