What Does a Busboy Do in a Restaurant?

What Does a Busboy Do in a Restaurant?

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There’s a common misconception that busboys are unimportant to the restaurant hierarchy. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Busboys play an integral part in the smooth running of any restaurant, and despite many people’s claims to the contrary, no establishment could run properly without them.

Busboys assist the rest of the restaurant staff. Out of everyone that works in a restaurant, the busboy is likely the one staff member that can truly say he works with everyone. Busboys or bussers can be found in every restaurant section, from the dining area to the kitchen. 

The work of a busser is essential, and to think otherwise can only be from lack of knowledge. The article explains what a busboy does at a restaurant and why this position is so important.

What Is a Busboy?

Busboys (also known as bussers) are extremely important and considered by many to be essential to every restaurant. Not only do they help the rest of the staff with their jobs, but they also make the dining experience of every guest far better than it would be otherwise.

A busboy helps out everywhere in the restaurant. Contrary to popular misconception, a busser’s duty is more than just clearing the plates in the restaurant. Busboys help the waiters, chefs, dishwashers, and sometimes even the manager to ensure that the restaurant runs as smoothly as possible.

Most restaurants wouldn’t run smoothly without a busser. Although they often earn significantly less than the rest of the staff, their work is just as important. As a diner, you may never even see the busboy, but you’d certainly notice if there was no busser at all. 

For people just starting in the restaurant industry, working the tables as a busboy is an excellent way to gain a level of familiarity with the establishment that would be very difficult to obtain otherwise.

What Are the Responsibilities of a Busboy?

A busboy’s job varies depending on the restaurant and the shift. The easiest way to think of them is as a jack of all trades. They fulfill an interim role and can be helpful as an attache to many areas of the kitchen, cleaning, and dining of the restaurant.

The responsibilities of a busboy include clearing and resetting tables in a restaurant. While the busboy fulfills quite a few other jobs and roles, this is the main one. When not on the dining floor, busboys can also be found helping in the kitchen washing dishes. 

Generally, busboys add to the customer experience. Waiters and waitresses are usually busy taking orders and delivering meals, especially during peak times when the restaurant is packed to the brim. As a result, busboys usually take the role of clearing plates and cleaning floors where previous guests have dined or washing dirty dishes.

Duties in the Dining Room

Working in the dining area is the primary job of a busboy. They also fill in elsewhere, but for most restaurants, how well you’re rated in your job directly correlates to how well you perform in the dining area.

There’s a common misconception that waiters and busboys are similar or the same. This misconception is very untrue. While waiters are the ones in primary contact with customers, taking their orders, serving their food and drinks, the work of the busboy usually starts before the customer even enters the restaurant. 

First, the busser ensures that all tables are cleared as soon as the previous diners leave. They usually have to be very quick and dexterous to ensure they get all the plates moved quickly and without incident. While this is a straightforward part of the job, it comes with its own set of challenges. 

Once the tables have been cleared and the guests have been seated, another job of the busboy is to be on hand if needed to wait tables. This event is usually a common occurrence. Notably, many restaurant-goers usually order more than one course. Due to this, bussers have to be on hand to clear the tables between each course while causing as little disruption to the customer’s meal as possible. 

Customer Service Duties

Busboy duties don’t end with setting tables. Apart from ensuring the table is cleared and reset for any guests coming in, the busboy must also ensure a positive dining experience. This duty is primarily the waiter’s, but the busboy also plays his part.

The main thing the busboy has to do here is to make sure that the plates are consistently cleared on time once the customer is done eating. Along with this, it might also be the duty of the busboy to make sure that the customer’s water is refilled consistently, especially when the waiters are busier than usual.

Duties in the Kitchen

Next, the busser might also be called upon to help in the kitchen. Usually, this comes in the form of washing dishes. Most restaurants will have someone whose job is to handle all the used dinnerware coming through the kitchen. However, there can be quite many of them coming through when restaurant traffic is high. 

In this scenario, it’s commonplace for the busboy to be called upon to help out and ensure a steady supply of clean dishes available for use. Juggling this along with your other duties can be quite taxing, and you’ll need to handle it well. 

Finally, depending on the restaurant, the busboy might be a jack of all trades, going where needed or directed by the manager. As a busboy, you could end up clearing tables, sweeping floors, washing dishes, refilling pitchers, and in extreme cases, sometimes even helping the chef.

Is Being a Busboy a Good Job?

There’s quite a bit of debate on the necessity of busboys to the restaurant chain. Many people argue that the restaurant would still function regardless of their presence. This argument has been used to support the fact that bussing isn’t a good job.

Being a busboy is a good job for certain people who can handle the physical demands required. For instance, college students or those in need of additional income can benefit from being a busboy as an interim job. Bussing is also a good job for people trying to get into the restaurant business. 

While the pay isn’t always commensurate with the intensity and amount of work done, being a busser continues to be a good job for people who can do it. It’s a great way to learn the ropes of working in a restaurant. For people looking to open a restaurant someday or work with them in some capacity, there are few better ways to learn than bussing tables.

Being a busser intimates you with almost every area of the restaurant. The admittedly strenuous work can also be a great way to learn because of the myriad of places and staff you’ll work with. 

Although bussing isn’t the best paying job in the world, it’s still a great way to make ends meet when you have little to no work experience. Many restaurants will hire you with only a high school diploma and give you on-the-job training to acclimate you with the tasks required of the position.

Notably, many stars had gone through periods where they bussed tables before making it big, with ex-daily show host Jon Stewart going as far as to name his company, Busboy Productions. Regardless of this, if the low pay is a big enough hurdle for you, you might be better served by working elsewhere. 

Skills and Characteristics Required of Busboys

Carrying plates to and from the kitchen constantly while ensuring that each table is cleared in time to allow new customers to take their seats can be very time-consuming and draining.

Being aware of this, many managers require busboys to be physically fit. This criterion eliminates many people from being good bussers. Physical fitness is a must if you hope to keep up with the bustle of the restaurant. While the job description as it relates to the actual ‘bussin’ of tables is simple, it’s by no means easy. 

Other common qualities often mentioned on a busboy job description template are:

  • Strong customer service skills
  • Good attention to detail
  • Ability to work accurately and quickly
  • Be physically fit
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Work well in a team

Some restaurants might also request a valid high school diploma, but this isn’t always the case. There’s no hard and fast rule about what qualifications you might need to get a job bussing tables. Some high-brow restaurants might require previous experience waiting tables while some might not. Your best bet is usually to seek out which job and restaurant fill your current needs.

Bussers spend much of their time in the dining area, thus a key requirement is to remain good-natured for the customers. Doing this can be extremely difficult for some. Working a six-hour shift while staying on your feet for most of the time and still maintaining good cheer is a skill that comes with time and perseverance, and it’s not for everybody. 

But it’s for this reason that many people refer to busboys as the legs of the restaurant industry. While their job sometimes goes unappreciated, they bring efficiency to any restaurant.

How Much Does a Busboy Earn?

In America, there’s a large gap in the service industry between what workers think they should earn and what they actually earn. The problem arises because many restaurants factor in tips as part of the workers’ pay, reducing how much they get from the establishment. Being a busboy is no different.

Bussers earn an average of about $9 per hour. Factoring in regular working hours, this comes to about $29,000 a year. This number varies depending on the establishment you work at and its location, with some salaries as high as $12 per hour.

The amount of money busboys earn is considerably below the average salary in the United States, which sits north of $50,000. Over the past few years, there has been a slow but coordinated push towards better pay for waiters. Although progress has been slow, some restaurants are finally starting to take the lead and increase hourly wages to a respectable minimum.

The problem here’s that goodwill doesn’t always trickle down to the rest of the restaurant staff. Waiters are the first contact between the customers and the restaurants, and admittedly they deserve better pay. However, from chef to busboy, the rest of the staff is often left out of the wage conversation. 

Restaurants have begun to adopt a tipping method where tips are shared. This sharing is either by necessity or by the goodwill of the waiter that receives the tip. The idea is for waiters to share a percentage of their daily tips to the rest of the supporting staff. However, the tip might be shared between two or more people depending on the restaurant and tipping structure.

While this is a step in the right direction, it can still leave many workers with far less than they deserve since their pay is still directly dependent on the goodwill of the customers.


Being a busser requires a significant amount of physical activity and dedication. It’s widely known that the pay isn’t always as much as you feel you deserve. However, one bright spot of working as a busser is the ample opportunity it provides you to work your way up the food chain.

Along with this, the low requirements and straightforward work involved make it a decent source of income when you land on hard times. It can keep you afloat either until you get a promotion to a better role or you find alternative employment.

Pro tip: the duties of a busboy may vary from one casual restaurant to the next. Make sure you read the full busser job description before signing up.