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Though they have similar duties and responsibilities as waitresses, banquet servers are paid by completely different methods. Various career and salary websites have different ways of calculating the salary of a banquet server and it's hard to pinpoint with variables such as the type of establishment or the server's level of seniority and experience. But when you average all out you'll find that the national average for banquet server salaries in 2011 ranges between $28,000 and $47,000 a year.
The online career and salary website PayScale.com maintains frequently updated statistics on the salary of a banquet server. The data is based on national employment statistics of banquet hall servers in restaurants, hotels, convention centers and other food and beverage establishments nationwide. According to PayScale, the typical hourly rate of pay for banquet servers ranges from $8.20 to $12.04 as of 2011. Hourly wages may vary by establishment and location.
In addition to hourly salary a banquet server may be entitled a certain amount of additional income by way of gratuities. Unlike tipped employees, they will not receive cash contributions directly from patrons. In most banquet halls a gratuity is added — usually 15 to 18 percent of the bill — to the invoice for the serviced event and the host is required to pay it as an inclusion to the bill. Typically, the gratuity is distributed evenly among all serving staff. However, management is not obligated to allocate gratuity funds at all and may award such bonuses at its discretion. According to PayScale.com, the average amount of supplemental income earned as gratuities by banquet servers in 2011 is roughly $100 to $500 per year in addition to base salaries.
Lead Server Or "Captain"
Many banquet facilities assign more experienced banquet servers positions as "leads" or "Captains". In this position they will act as something of a "head server" delegating duties to members of serving teams during service events while working directly with them on the floor. They may also be responsible for a number of additional task such as overseeing food preparation and menu composition, check lists and consulting with hosts and event coordinators. According to "Job Volume", in 2011 one can expect a considerable increase in hourly pay — $15 per hour — to compensate for these additional responsibilities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says that in 2008 full time food preparation and server supervisors could earn up to $46,810 per year (including gratuity) with only the lowest 10 percent earning less than $18,530. The median annual average salary for lead banquet servers and captains was around $28,970.
Food Service Managers
One of the most advanced positions in the banquet server field is Food Service Manager. According to the BLS, a majority of those who held the position in 2008 earned between $36,670 and $59,580 per year with about 10 percent raking in more than $76,940. Food service managers work directly with lead banquet servers, kitchen staff, bartenders and administrative staffs to oversee all aspects of event coordination and on-site event activity. The national average salary for a food service manager in charge of banquet servers is about $46,320.
Generally only a small percentage of banquet hall servers are eligible to receive benefits, and usually only those who possess authority positions such as full-time lead captains and servers and food service managers. According to PayScale.com, in 2011 as many as 71 percent of banquet hall servers do not receive benefits. Only 29 percent receive medical benefits, 27 percent have dental and 21 percent have vision coverage.
The Salary Expert.com career and employment resource website offers a "across-the-board" summary of the overall average salary of banquet servers -— all positions combined — that varies by state. The graph outlines typical annual salaries for banquet servers in 10 major metropolitan cities. Banquet servers in Chicago are earning $41,413 as of 2011. Houston, New York City and Manhattan servers earn just over $47,000, Orlando and Atlanta servers earn about $40,000, Boston servers lead the nation, earning more than $53,000 per year.
Michelle Renee is a professional trainer and quality assurance consultant in the career, education and customer service industries, with two decades of experience in food/beverage and event coordinating management. Renee has been published by Lumino and Career Flight as well as various food, education and business publications.