Good restaurants run like a well oiled machine, and each individual position must do their part to ensure that. Bussers (or busboys for the gendered version) are an integral part of the restaurant machine. The service industry is fast paced, and the best way for a restaurant to make more money, and a waiter to get more tips, to then pass along to a busser, is to get tables cleared and reset as fast as possible, to get more people sat and on to their dining experience.
And nothing is more dissatisfying as a customer to be waiting for a table at a restaurant, when you can see an abundance of open tables that just need to be cleared off and reset. It’s an important job. Now, no one is going to say it’s glamorous. Often, people in the industry say that bussers do all the things that servers don’t want to do. And that may be partially true. But waiters tip bussers for their services.
Here’s everything you ever needed (and probably more than you wanted) to know about bussers.
Busser Job Description
It can be tough not to answer many of these questions with, “It depends.” Frankly, because most often, it does depend. Restaurants can be completely different from one to the next, but for the most part there are some general responsibilities that bussers partake in.
Bussers, for the most part, will always be bussing tables. This is the not-so-glamorous part of the job. When people are done with their meals, you come in to expediently remove dirty dishes, utensils, napkins, etc., wipe down the table with sanitizer or a sanitized rag, and reset the table in the proper format (i.e. napkins, place settings, etc.).
These dishes are taken back to the dish pit where the dishwasher readies them for their next run through the process. Bussers are often extremely versatile, so be ready for a little bit of everything. If there’s a spill in the dining room? You’ll probably get called on to take care of it. If water glasses need filling at a table, and a waiter needs help? You’ll probably get called on to take care of it. If the trashes on the serving line need taking out? You’ll probably get called on to take care of it. Catching the idea here?
You’ll need to be extremely alert, communicate respectfully and well with the restaurant customers as well as with the servers and managers, while paying attention to lots of details. It’s a fast paced job, where you’ll be constantly on your feet with something to do, lifting and carrying, cleaning, and consistently in motion.
How Much Do Bussers Get Paid?
Once again, unfortunately this answer depends. In most restaurants, the general rule is that the servers who worked while a specific busser was on, tip out anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of their tips to the bussers who worked on their shifts. Bussers can make a servers life heaven or hell very quickly, so servers, it’s often best to take care of them as well as possible. Now, depending on the size of the restaurant, the price point, hours worked, and a myriad of other factors, a busser could make anywhere from $50 to $250 dollars a shift. However, for the most part, most bussers get paid a minimum wage, with about an extra 5-10 dollars an hour. Again, this can vary drastically, but you should be able to count on about that.
How Do Bussers Get Paid?
Bussers get paid in the same way waiters or servers at a restaurant get paid. At the end of the night they get what’s known as “tipped out”. Depending on the restaurant, the servers who are working will pass on their tip to the busser at the end of their shift, or sometimes, they’ll leave their tip in an envelope at the end of the shift with the restaurant manager for the busser to pick up at their next shift, so as to include all revenue made while the busser was working.
Bussers will also likely be paid their bi-weekly minimum wage hours in the form of a check.
Busser Skills and Requirements
For the most part, this is an entry level restaurant position. You usually don’t need restaurant experience to work as a busser, and more often than not, it’s a great way for someone who’d like to eventually become a waiter or server, to learn the ropes of a restaurant from no experience, and work their way up. For the most part, you’ll need to have a go-getter attitude, with no negativity about the less glamorous parts of the position. The faster you are and the more willing you are to get your hands dirty, the easier you’ll have it in the long run, and more likely the servers are on staff to notice and kick back the proper tip to you. You should have good hustle, good attention to detail, polite communication skills, endurance for a long shift, and good time management.
You’ll need non-slip shoes to hustle around the restaurant (including in a wet dish pit) and the required uniform of your prospective restaurant. That’s usually black on black but can vary widely for many restaurants.
That said; dive in.
It’s a messy job, but it needs doing, and you can’t be shy in the restaurant industry. The busser duties list is long and sometimes arduous, but there is huge potential for upward mobility, cash payments at the end of a shift, and the ability to work fairly independently for the most part.
And also keep in mind:
Johnny Depp, Langston Hughes, and Jon Stewart all worked as a restaurant busser at one point in their life. It’s a tried and true position in the restaurant business that will always need doing, and will always need doing well. Once you have experience on your restaurant resume as a busser, it will be much easier in the future to get a job as a restaurant host or hostess, and one day train your way into waiting tables, which is where the real money is made. But everyone’s got to pay their dues in one way or another.