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Bartenders Unlimited

In 1986, when a customer asked Richard McDonald to moonlight at a private affair, he was just another bartender.
Then, McDonald says, while he was serving up libations at the shindig, “it came to me in a flash: This is a business opportunity.”
The inspiration’s result: Bartenders Unlimited, a firm providing serving help for affairs ranging from intimate dinners for two at home to large-scale corporate bashes.
The service is unique to this market, McDonald says.
Unlike caterers who provide such help only as an adjunct to their own food and beverage sales, Bartenders Unlimited is a source of servers for those who do their own party preparations or who need bar help only.
Clients pay $16.50 an hour per server to rent bartenders, waiters or even valet-parking attendants for a minimum of three hours.
The service apparently found an unfilled market niche. In 1986, it landed a total of 70 jobs. By 1994, the number had grown to 360, McDonald says.
To start the firm, he rounded up a cadre of 10 colleagues interested in picking up a few extra bucks for an evening’s work. Bartenders Unlimited’s “core group” of regular help now numbers 30.
So far, the business’ growth has been steady with sales increases of some 20 percent a year. But McDonald believes that is all about to change.
This year, he picked up a job he describes as “the opportunity of a lifetime,” a contract with Regency Productions by Hyatt, Chicago to provide service help for the 1995 Ryder Cup at Pittsford’s Oak Hill Country Club.
McDonald is scouring hotel schools, bars and restaurants to sign up the 600 temporary workers he estimates will be needed to wait on attendees at the September golf tourney’s corporate village.
With the exposure the internationally famous tournament will give Bartenders Unlimited, McDonald says, business could double next year.
After that, he plans to think about the next logical step–expanding to Syracuse and Buffalo markets.

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