Should you bus your tables early? 4 tips for successful bussing

Should you bus your tables early? 4 tips for successful bussing Share this article

Busboys, bus people, back waiters or bussers are important roles in well-run restaurants, however, most patrons won’t even notice these hardworking individuals unless a mistake is made. Bussing is useful for restaurants because it helps create a clean, orderly atmosphere for customers. It also adds an extra level of service and improves turnover to allow more diners to eat at the establishment.

Despite the importance of effective bussers in the food service industry, these roles aren’t always as valued as they should be. Restaurant advice website Food Woolf explained that a common mistake that restaurants make is to focus too heavily on bussing tables quickly rather than doing it in a way that promotes the highest level of service. Although the profit margin in food service is thin, so optimizing the number of customers on any given day or night is critical, Food Woolf pointed out that focusing just on speed ends up costing restaurants in the long run.

“Rather than challenge their staff to work smart, clean, and gracefully, the average restaurant leader pushes their support staff to cut corners, take shortcuts, and do whatever it takes to clear and reset a table in a timely way,” Food Woolf explained. “Many business sacrifice the quality of their service over the long term in order to chase the short game of getting a single table cleared quickly. The result of this short term thinking: thousands of dollars of loss in breakage, lost silverware carelessly tossed in garbage pails, unhappy customers, and food that is mistakenly thrown away that has to be re-fired for a customer’s to-go request.”

This description may seem more extreme to some in food service, but the best results may come from focusing on bussing with the same service a server would provide, rather than sheer speed. There’s been a long debate about whether it’s better to bus tables early for maximized turnover or provide longer time at the table. Quick turnover is a more recent trend and many in the industry are divided. But, as Food Woolf pointed out, quick, early bussing has it’s dangers too. Here are a few tips to help your bussing staff be as successful as possible – a blend of speed and service.

1. Work with the waitstaff to clear dishes throughout the meal 
Although clearing a table early is controversial, there’s no problem keeping the table clear throughout the meal to give your customers space to eat, drink and converse. Clearing dirty appetizer, soup or salad plates or other dishes throughout the meal isn’t just beneficial for your patrons, it also keeps the dishwasher running smoothly – it helps avoid any dish room backup after rushes.

Waiters and bussers should work together so that tables are cleaned throughout. Although some advocate for servers to be heavily involved in the bussing process, they can simply communicate to bussers when their table needs something cleared.

2. Don’t bring bussing trays to the dining area 
When it’s time for plates to be removed from the dining area, being quiet and barely noticeable is key. The best bussers are nearly invisible, Full-Service Restaurant magazine explained.

Part of being barely seen or heard, the magazine outlined, is only using your hands to clear a table while customers are there. A tray or bucket can take diners out of the atmosphere of service and create distraction, plus many trays are dirty or unattractive. A polite busser who makes room for more courses is best, being careful not to elbow, intrude or interrupt the meal.

3. Focus on where diners aren’t eating too 
FSR magazine also pointed to dirty areas surrounding diners as a major distraction that bussers can assist with. As well as clearing tables and readying them for the next guest, an expert busser will check through all the other tables to ensure that they’re still clean and well supplied.

A customer should be able to walk into the restaurant and experience a dining area filled with clean, attractive tables. Although he or she will only be using one, the other pristine tables help create a mood and enhance the customer’s confidence in the establishment.

Bussers should also take time to ensure that every table has the condiments, salt, pepper, sugar, candles and other important aspects that each needs.

4. Foster helpfulness 
Food Woolf explained that the best restaurants are ones that have an entire staff working as a team to help customers, and part of that means that in addition to his or her role, every team member is prepared to assist patrons.

The best bussers will be able to answer a guest’s questions, notice the need for a drink refill or be able to bring over someone who can better assist a customer while being pleasant and polite. Not only is it beneficial to the restaurant to have a busser who can perform extra, friendly duties, but bussers and servers benefit too when the tips are split up.

Restaurants that work to improve their bussing may see improvements far beyond what they hope to get from quick turnover. Timely, superior service and attention to detail can help customers have a better experience and be more likely to return.


Brought to you by Shoes For Crews, the trusted leader in safety footwear to foodservice employees for more than 30 years.

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