What does a busser do?

Bussers are an important piece of the food service puzzle — they provide support and help things run smoothly. Without them, service is slower and more difficult. As it happens, bussers are in high demand right now (just check the Instawork worker app!), and employers are willing to pay top dollar for them. The work they do is easy to pick up, too. A busser’s job changes very little between businesses, making the skills very transferable. But what does a busser do, what do they get paid, and how do you become one? We’ll answer all of those questions and more in this post.

What is a busser?

A busser is a member of the front-of-house (FOH) support staff and plays a key role in ensuring smooth operation of food service businesses like restaurants, catering companies, country clubs, and hotels. Bussers support the servers on the floor. A busser’s main task is to clear, clean, and reset tables. Bussers rarely interact with the guests, but their work is important.

What does a busser do?

A busser supports the servers on the floor and helps to keep everything tidy. A busser’s skills can quickly be learned on the job. Their main task is to clear dirty dishes, clean tables, and reset them with all the clean dishes and flatware they need. Other tasks for bussers might include:

  • Cleaning up spills and messes
  • Refilling side stations
  • Running food
  • Organizing delivery and to-go orders
  • Pouring water

When it’s quiet, bussers may also do general cleaning tasks, like cleaning the windows or sweeping the floor.

In a small business, a busser will often work alone. In larger businesses, there are often many different bussers working together as a team to keep the tables turning. They may also complete other tasks like polishing plates, rolling silverware, and filling condiments.

Bussers are also needed at large events. There, bussers will often help with the setup and breakdown of the event. Once service starts, they will then do their regular job. During service at an event, a busser’s tasks are similar to the ones mentioned above.

A busser’s job does not always involve talking to the guests who are being served, so don’t worry if you’re not much of a social butterfly. However, bussers should be prepared to answer such questions as “Where is the bathroom?” Guests will also ask them for things like sauces, silverware, or drink refills. Bussers should be able to complete these tasks.

What qualifications does a busser need?

At most, a busser will need to have a high school diploma or GED, but these are not always necessary or requested.

When it comes to physical requirements, a busser needs to be mobile, and to be able to lift, bend, and carry up to 40 lbs. This is because they will be clearing tables with lots of heavy plates. An individual plate isn’t heavy, but they add up a lot over time. They may also need to help move heavy items that are delivered, or help with setup/takedown at an event.

In fine dining establishments, a busser may also need to know details about the menu — this is so they can answer any questions about the food by the guests, and make recommendations when asked.

There are no national certification requirements for bussers. But in some cities and states, bussers will need to have a valid food handler certification. Even if a city or state doesn’t require certification, a food service business might require their support staff to have one. It’s a good idea to have a food handler certification because it shows employers that you are serious about your work.

On Instawork, many employers won’t book Professionals unless they already have the certificates they need — so make sure to upload your Food Handlers card and any other certifications you have to your Instawork profile so we can review and verify them.

What does a busser get paid?

A busser will often get paid the minimum wage for the city or state they are working in. According to Glassdoor, the average busser earns $24,844, which works out to be $11.96 per hour for full-time employees. On Instawork, though, busser jobs often pay more than average.

This base wage is then supplemented with tips from the servers they support. Unlike barbacks, who are only tipped out by the bartenders, bussers get tipped out by all the servers they support on their shift.

A busser’s pace of work can affect their pay too. If a busser clears, cleans, and relays tables efficiently, then the FOH staff may be able to serve more tables. This adds more tips to the pool, meaning that everyone — including the bussers — makes more money!

What makes a great busser?

Great bussers are a huge asset for any food service business. If they find a great busser, they will want to hold onto them for a long time. But what does it take to become a great busser? While most of a busser’s skills can be learned quickly and on the job, there are a few traits and skills that take a busser from good to great. These include:

  • Attentiveness: A busser should know what is happening in the kitchen and on the floor at all times. They should know which tables are leaving so they can be there to quickly clear, clean, and reset them. If someone spills a drink, a busser should be there with a clean towel. If someone drops a fork, then a busser should be there with one for them. Above all, a busser should anticipate the needs of the servers and meet those needs before anyone asks them to.
  • Teamwork: Even if a busser is the only busser in the establishment, they’re still part of the team. Communicating with the servers, hosts, food runners, and other members of the staff makes everyone’s job easier. If a busser is not busy and sees that another member of the team needs help, then they should be there to help them. A busser is a member of the FOH support staff, and teamwork is an important part of that support. If there is a team of bussers, then communication amongst themselves is essential for working well together.
  • Customer Service: It is not necessarily in a busser’s job description to serve the guests, but guests will still often ask the busser questions or make requests. A busser should know where things are and how to respond to the questions asked by guests, as well as respond in a friendly, courteous, and professional manner. Anything they don’t know, they should ask other members of the support staff or the server of that table.

The bottom line

A busser is an important part of a dining establishment’s support staff, and bussers are always in high demand. A busser’s skills are easy to learn on the job and they are also easily transferable between businesses. And if you’re interested in a career in hospitality, then being a busser is the perfect place to start.

Does being a busser sound like the right job for you? If you answered yes, then download the Instawork worker app where you can find high-paying busser positions available now!