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The next time you're led to a restaurant table that's set with clean dishes, silverware and glasses, thank the closest busboy. These staffers don't get much glory or money, but their efforts are critical to a restaurant's success. Busboys – who are also commonly called bussers, as female workers can also hold these jobs – do a lot of the dirty work that allows servers to focus on serving and diners to focus on enjoying their food.
What a Busboy Does
Their uniforms might differ, but a busboy who works in a casual restaurant will have many of the same responsibilities as a busboy who works in fine dining. Basically, busboy duties all center around assisting the waitstaff and ensuring quick turnover of tables. While the servers greet diners, take orders, deliver food and manage checks, busboys clear away dishes and prepare tables for new diners.
Depending on the restaurant, busboys may also be expected to do things like wash dishes, roll silverware and restock service stations with the items that servers need. They may also help with opening and closing duties: putting chairs up on tables, taking out garbage, cleaning floors and counters, watering plants, wiping down menus and so on.
Bussers usually have very limited contact with diners, although they may refill water glasses and relay customer requests to servers. In some restaurants, bussers may also act as food runners who deliver meals to diners and/or be expected to help answer phones or even assist with taking reservations.
What to Expect Bussing Tables
Bussing tables is a physically demanding jobs. Busboys are on their feet throughout a shift and do a lot of repetitive bending and lifting. Many busboy tasks involve carrying heavy loads of dishes and glassware, which requires strength, balance and coordination.
Bussers are constantly on the move. The more quickly they work, the more diners a restaurant can serve. When a group leaves a table, the busser clears away the dirty dishes and may clean the table or change the tablecloth. Next he resets the table with clean plates, glasses and silverware. In some restaurants, bussers also pre-fill water glasses before diners sit down. During the meal, a busser might refill diners' drinks or bring them more silverware or condiments on request.
How Much Busboys Earn
Working as a busser is an entry-level job that typically pays little above the minimum wage, which is why these jobs are often performed by high schoolers and other young workers. The median pay for food service workers like bussers was $9.81 as of May 2017, which means that half of food service workers earned more and half earned less. In restaurants that participate in tip pooling – in which servers and bartenders share a portion of their tips with cooks, hostesses and other staffers – bussers may take home a little extra at the end of each shift.
The work isn't glamorous, but because managers often have no education requirement for busboys, this type of position may be a good first step into the restaurant business for someone with no high school diploma. Like other restaurant workers, bussers should be prepared to work on nights, weekends and holidays.