Pre-bussing is a restaurant industry term that describes keeping a table tidy throughout the meal. Not to be confused with the cleaning that takes place after the guests have paid the check and vacated, this type of cleaning refers to clearing unused plates, distributing appropriate stemware or silverware for various courses and removing any crumbs or other debris from the table.
The art of invisibility
Even though pre-bussing is common practice, there's a fine line between being attentive and downright obnoxious. Scan through a list of Yelp reviews of even the most popular dining spots and you'll be met with a select few that frown upon service not because it was slow but because it was overbearing. Don't make this busser faux pas, as it can make guests feel invaded rather than taken care of.
"Bussers should neither be seen nor heard."
Bussers should neither be seen nor heard. As FSR magazine pointed out, in the best-case scenario, a busser will be able to fly by, grab some dishes and slide right under the guests' radar. To achieve this balance, the employee must first learn how to read guests so that he or she doesn't intrude when someone is still eating the last few pieces of steak.
Olivier Zardoni, executive director of operations at the Sugar Factory on Las Vegas Strip, told FSR that knowing what a guest needs all boils down to reading the patron's body language.
"Everything is about how you observe the table and the guests," Zardoni explained. "It's an art."
The busser taketh and giveth
In addition to swiping any dirty or unused flatware, the busser is sometimes asked to bring things to table if a server is swamped taking orders or explaining dinner specials. An excellent busser will be sure to replenish water so that a guest is never left waiving an empty glass in the air.
According to Forbes, it's important not to assume that a table is drinking tap. Many establishments serve bottled and sparkling water, and forgetting who has what can lead to disruption.
On taking it slow
It's up to the managers to properly train bussers so that they can perform their duties efficiently and effectively. Food Woolf pointed out that a lack of guidance is what makes staff pick up sloppy work habits. Although it can be tempting to encourage staff to be quick to clear, there's something to be said for taking things slow.
The short game of bussing might get the job done immediately, but it's the attention to detail and precision that'll keep patrons coming back. Not to mention, hurriedly tossing plates and glassware into a bus bucket will cost the restaurant money down the road because any damaged or broken dishes will need to be replaced.
Unhappy guests, broken glasses and food costs are enough reason for any establishment to properly train bussers. This training session is perfect timing to suggest appropriate foot ware and uniforms for the job. A corporate shoe policy can reduce the risk of slips, trips and falls for the fast-paced work. Employees who are properly equipped and informed can rake in money without stirring up trouble.
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