"Busser" redirects here. For the French composer, see Henri Büsser.
In North America, a busboy, busgirl, busser or bus person is a person who works in the restaurant and catering industry clearing tables, taking dirty dishes to the dishwasher, setting tables, and otherwise assisting the waiting staff. Speakers of British English may be unfamiliar with the terms, which are translated in British English as commis waiter, commis boy, or waiter's assistant. The term for a busser in the classic brigade de cuisine system is commis de débarrasseur, or simply débarrasseur. Bussers are typically placed beneath the waiting staff in organization charts, and are sometimes an apprentice or trainee to waiting staff positions.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the occupation typically did not require related work experience or a high school diploma, that on-the-job training was short term, and that the median income in 2012 for the position was $18,500.
The duties of bussers fall under the heading of busing or bussing, an Americanism of unknown origin.
Primary functions of the busser are to clean and reset tables, carry dishes and other tableware to the kitchen, serve items such as water, coffee and bread, replenish supplies of linens, tableware and trays, and assist servers with clearing plates and other areas of table service. Other tasks include cleaning and polishing fixtures, walls, furniture and equipment, cleaning tableware, cleaning food service areas, mopping and vacuuming floors, cleaning up spills, removing empty bottles and trash, and scraping and stacking dirty dishes.
One guide to manners advised that bussers should not speak or interrupt those being served, and to simply refill glasses at the table rather than asking if customers would like more water. Likewise, it advises customers against engaging bussers and waiting staff in distracting conversations, as they are often busy. A business etiquette guide suggests that customers should refer to bussers and waiting staff with the gender-neutral terms busser and server rather than waiter or busboy. It also says that bussers are the employee and must inform if items like a water glass or piece of flatware is missing.
Bussers are not traditionally tipped directly in the United States, but restaurants may employ "tip pooling" or "tip sharing" arrangements, in which a portion of servers' tips are shared with other restaurant service staff.
In the United States, tip sharing may be either voluntary, where waitstaff give a portion of their tips to coworkers as they see fit, or mandatory, where the employer sets a formula by which tips must be shared with coworkers such as bussers and bartenders. Federal Department of Labor regulations do not allow restaurants to include managers in tip sharing, and inclusion of "back of the house" employees such as dishwashers and cooks has been the subject of legal disputes since 2009. Recipients of tips in shared tip restaurants may be paid a "tip-credit wage", below the ordinary minimum wage in the United States, if the amount of shared tips in a pay period brings their average pay to the minimum wage. Federal subminimum wage is set at $2.13 per hour, though state and local laws may require higher rates. California, for example, requires tipped employees be paid full minimum wage.
A spokesperson for restaurant operator Darden Restaurants, which incorporated tip-sharing in 2011 at their Olive Garden and Red Lobster chains, said that it was more consistent and fair "to recognize everyone who delivers a guest experience", and noted that the lower hourly base wage for bartenders and bussers offered "the opportunity to ultimately earn more", depending on a restaurant's volume of tips.
Robert Downey, Jr., American actor, worked as a busboy at a restaurant in New York City for three years, was "too sweaty" to work as a waiter.
Richard Feynman, American physicist, experimented with ways to optimize dish-stacking while working as a busboy during the summer growing up.
Red Foxx, American comedian and actor, worked as a busser and dishwasher at a famous Harlem eatery called Jimmy's Chicken Shack. He was friends with Malcolm X, who then worked there as a waiter, and who later described Foxx as "the funniest dishwasher on this earth".
Langston Hughes, American writer and poet, dubbed the "busboy poet" by journalists in 1925 after he left three of his poems beside the plate of a famed poet at the hotel where he worked, who then read the poems at a large poetry reading later that evening.
George Kirby, American comedian, singer, and actor, worked as a busser at Chicago's Club DeLisa for $13 per week, until his comedic impersonations earned him a trial on the club's stage, which launched his comedy career.
Jerry Lewis, American comedian and actor, worked as a busser at Brown's Hotel in the Catskills, where he would try to get laughs from diners. When he later teamed up with Dean Martin to do live shows, a signature bit had Lewis playing an inept busboy, interrupting the suave Martin's singing numbers, an act revisited years later in a scene from their eighth movie, Scared Stiff.
^ abWilson, Kenneth G. (1993). The Columbia Guide to Standard American English. Columbia University Press. p. 80. ISBN978-0-231-06989-2. "A bus boy or busboy assists the waiter or waitress in a restaurant; he clears dishes (he buses or busses them), and all of his duties come under the heading of busing or bussing. The origin of this Americanism is uncertain."
^"Employment Projections". United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved 2014-06-12. Occupation data is listed under "Dining room and cafeteria attendants and bartender helpers" (job titles are hidden by default).
^Travis, Dempsey (1983). An Autobiography of Black Jazz. Urban Research Institute. p. 134. ISBN978-0-941484-03-9.
^Watkins, Mel (1994). On the real side: laughing, lying, and signifying: the underground tradition of African-American humor that transformed American culture, from slavery to Richard Pryor. Simon & Schuster. p. 488. ISBN978-0-671-68982-7.