Cutting Payroll in Your Hotel Restaurants – Busser Edition

If you are like many hotels, you are looking for ways to reduce your costs in your restaurants to compensate for the lower revenues.  In this first cutting payroll edition, we are going to discuss how to cut the busser (bussperson, busboy) position.  Many restaurant chains across the country have now eliminated the busser position.  Take a look at this article describing how chains such as T.G.I. Friday’s have eliminated the position.

First, a brief overview of how we see the bussperson position. Bussers are the key to a restaurant’s cleanliness.  They are relatively inexpensive to have on the floor during busy times.  However, they can really hamper good guest service.  Restaurants tend to use bussers to help the servers serve guests by doing things such as offering beverages and pre-bussing.  The problem is that guests cannot tell the difference between a server and a busser.  It does not matter if their uniforms are different.  When an employee approaches a guest’s table and offers a beverage, the guest expects that person is going to serve them.  Unfortunately, they do not always speak English and are not trained to properly serve the guest.  Many guest’s questions are answered with a blank stare or with, “I’ll get the server”.  Servers should serve.  They should be the first to greet the guest when they are seated.  They should take the drink orders and deliver them.  They should pre-buss and should deliver the checks.  A busser should never go to a guest’s table while there is a guest present.  If a busser is doing any of these tasks out of necessity, your server probably is unable to handle the number of tables he/she has been assigned.  You should reduce his/her table count until his/her service improves.

What should a busser do? A busser should be bussing tables, cleaning tables, and resetting them.  They should be focused entirely on the cleanliness of the restaurant and not on guest service.  Unless you specifically train your bussers to serve guests at certain moments of their meals, as most high-end fancy restaurants do, make sure the busser’s job description clear.

So, when do you need a busser on duty? Only during high volume times, when the restaurant is at least 75 percent full.  We think bussers are a necessity during breakfast hours if you have a buffet, because of the fast-paced environment.  This is the same for lunch if you do a lot of lunch business and have a buffet.  The busser has extra duties during a buffet service like stocking the buffet and cleaning the buffet area that will continue to keep him/her busy.  Bussers are usually not needed during a hotel restaurant’s dinner service.  Dinner is much slower paced and it should be easier for the servers to keep up.  You may need to schedule a few additional hours to do some of the deep cleaning of the restaurant each day.

If you are a small or medium-sized hotel, you may only need one busser for a few hours each morning.  Try borrowing someone from another department instead of having a dedicated busser.  For deep cleaning, work together with housekeeping to keep the restaurant looking perfect in-between meal periods.  Cutting costs effectively means using each of your departments efficiently.

While you are making the changes, schedule an extra server or two and shrink each server’s section.  It will take the servers some time to adjust to their new responsibilities.  The good thing about extra servers is that they always want to go home early if there are not enough guests and tips to be made, unlike bussers who stay for the full 8 hours and usually get paid more than servers.  Just make sure everybody is completing their checklists and sidework prior to going home.

If you are really brave, have the F&B Manager be the busser for a day or two.  Have them track what times the busser is needed and schedule an employee to perform the duties for those times.  Do not forget to merge your busser’s daily checklist with your server’s daily checklist to make sure that no tasks are missed.