In North America, Busser, busboy, and busgirl are terms used for someone who works in the restaurant and catering industry clearing tables, taking dirty dishes to the dishwasher, setting tables and otherwise assisting the waiting staff.
A busser's duties generally depend on the size of the restaurant. In upscale or larger restaurants, they may bring water and introductory foods, like tortilla chips and salsa in Mexican restaurants or bread in an Italian restaurant. The busser may also serve initial drinks like water and orange juice. In large restaurants with many employees with specific duties, a busser may not be required to do much in the kitchen except bring in dirty dishes and items from the dining hall. On the other hand, they are generally responsible for all assistant activities in the dining hall—like resetting tables, clearing dirty dishes from tables, clearing spilled items, shining cutlery, refilling water and juice glasses, restocking waiter stations with water, bread, or juice. They may also restock dinnerware—clean plates, cups, glasses and utensils. They may also help the server carry food to customers. In small restaurants with few employees, they may have additional duties, like washing dishes, restocking the kitchen, taking out the trash, etc. The most popular organizational method assigns each busser to a station, or area of tables.
Bussers receive varying salaries. Generally they get a low hourly wage (often the minimum wage), but also earn tips—usually a percentage of tips left to the servers for that shift. (If they are a trainee, often they receive no tips for around three days. Trainers typically take those tips as their "training wage". In a busy restaurant that might be between $10 to $250 for a shift. Therefore, a busser who works alone can make more than a server, but generally makes a little less. Bussers may also wear slightly different clothing to differentiate them from servers. For instance, they may wear a black apron while the server wears a white apron.
Bussers typically clear dirty dishes into bus tubs or bus boxes. (In many upscale restaurants the cafeteria look of bus tubs or boxes is prohibited, bussers may carry dishes individually.) They store cleared items in the bus box or tray and take to the kitchen's dish washing area. Bussers often use larger tubs or trays to lessen the number of trips. Restaurants must also have glass racks and such for the busser to unload the dirty dishes.
In his stand up special Chris Rock: Bigger and Blacker, comedianChris Rock claims that no white person would ever trade places with him, even though he is rich. As he puts it, "There's a white, one-legged busboy in here right now that won't change places with my black ass. He's going, "No, man, l don't wanna switch. I wanna ride this white thing out. See where it takes me."" Chris Rock also comments on busboys in his song Busboys, McDonald's And Minimum Wage that appears on his comedy albumBorn Suspect.
The term "power bussing" refers to three or more bussers simultaneously cleaning one section of a restaurant. The term is gaining popularity in current restaurant establishments across North America.
Receiving their tips
Many restaurants require their servers to "tip out" the busser responsible for the servers section of the restaurant. It is considered common courtesy to tip out the busser, and failure to do so will be frowned upon. The amount that a busser receives from their server should be related to how much money the server made, as well as the effort the busser made during the night. Despite this, many servers choose to give a "standard" tip-out. In other words, they will give this amount to any busser, and for every shift. The amount that they give out has no relationship to the quality of their shift. A common term for this "standard" tip-out is "capping out". For example if a server always gives a five dollar tip, they are said to be "capping out" at five dollars. The term "capping out" has become increasingly popular among bussers in North American restaurants.