Bussing tables might be the most neglected section of a restaurant’s front-of-house team—and that’s a problem. When the bussing staff doesn’t receive quality training, a restaurant’s profitability is in danger. Owners and managers tend to overlook or underappreciate the skill and maneuvering that goes into the job. What this type of management fails to see is how much bussing impacts the overall customer service.
Diners notice the details. Here are a few examples of telltale signs that a neglected bussing team is running tables:
- There is an overflowing bus tub.
- Dirty dishes are piled in a corner.
- Bussers cut in front of guests to clear the table.
- Plates are picked up noisily.
- Drinking glasses are left empty for too long.
- Trash is left on the table, like empty sugar packets or used straws.
- Tables and chairs are littered with crumbs.
- A table sits empty with dirty dishes for a long time.
- Tables are still wet after a quick wipe-down.
These details might seem inconsequential, but customers notice them. Worst of all, they can make your guests feel ignored or unseen.
Bussing tables requires training, skill, finesse, and efficiency. Focus more on your bussing staff, and in doing so, convert guests from being one-time visitors into loyal patrons.
Give More Guidance
Every restaurant manager and restaurant owner tries to cut costs when possible, but the most common mistake is not investing in important service training and materials. To perform well, your staff—bussers in particular—need your time, dedication, and willingness to invest.
Instead of telling your bussers to be as fast as possible, train them in the art of giving great service. With deliberate training in customer service, the results are immediate: Customers are happier than ever, your FOH team operates seamlessly, and you no longer need to replace basic items like:
- Plates that cracked when carelessly stacked.
- Glasses that broke when bussed too fast.
- Silverware that was accidentally thrown out.
- Customer meals that were accidentally picked up.
Having a well-trained bussing staff allows your restaurant to run like a well-oiled machine.
How to Train Your Staff to Be World-Class Bussers
An excellent table busser is swift, elegant, and invisible. Without disturbing guests, he or she arranges the tables to perfection, removes clutter quickly, and always makes sure customers have what they need. With time and patience, you can train your bussing staff to give world-class service, too.
To get started, one must first recognize the difference between enforcing the restaurant’s standards for a dining experience and guidelines for table-busser training.
For instance, training staff to maintain the restaurant vision would include directions like:
- The right way to fold napkins.
- Which music to play for lunch and dinner.
- What the right length is to wear an apron.
- What the right temperature is.
These are important because they are related to ambiance and style, but must not be confused with training points for bussing. They are reinforcing the vision of the owner only.
Instead, focus on explaining how to give outstanding restaurant customer service.
The goal of your training is to have a table bussing team that gives the guests what they need before the guests realize it themselves.
If you are committed to giving top customer service, talk with your staff about the new goals and intentions. This training requires a willing team of students, so be clear about your service-related targets to ensure that everyone is on board.
Training your staff to give great service also requires dedication on your part. Patience and compassion are essential, particularly as there will be a learning curve if this type of training is new to your busser staff.
Train Your Management to Coach Your Staff
All the training in the world will mean nothing for your bussers if they don’t have reinforcement from a strong management team. Train your management to be a great coach, and develop your staff into customer service gurus. Managers want a team who respects them and can work cohesively, training them to think more like a coach will reduce their stress and improve your restaurant’s service.
The best training system is nothing without great managers to implement the training. Build up your top-level staff to ensure they have the right tools to manage your restaurant staff and be a resource of knowledge to lean on when they need assistance. Teach your managers through example, offer formal training programs, and turn your managers into coaches for your staff.
How to Turn Managers into Coaches:
- Schedule one-on-one coaching sessions
- Introduce a mentorship program for new or struggling employees
- Support daily learning opportunities
- Offer positive reinforcement
- Lead by example
- Provide formal training – or hire managers with coaching experience
Table Busser Training is About Giving Great Service
The secret to training bussers in the art of customer service is thoughtful repetition and hands-on guidance. Bussers are responsible for making the guests as comfortable as possible, yet they have little to zero communication with diners. To learn how to do more than clear tables fast, you can show them how to improve guests’ experience directly.
An excellent busser talks with the kitchen and serving staff to know exactly what the needs of the customer are, and delivers them right away. Your busser team is the liaison between departments, so it’s essential that they have access to orders and that your serving staff speaks clearly with them. (Do you have a communication system set up between your teams? If not, read here for ways to improve communications between the FOH and kitchen with a kitchen display system.)
In your training, stress the importance of critical thinking and being proactive. For instance, when a customer orders soup, a busser brings a soup spoon to the table right away. When coffee is ordered, milk and sugar are brought with it. If two guests are sharing a meal, two sharing plates are brought out. The list could go on and on. Think about the types of customers you have and their needs, then, consider how your bussing staff can help give them great service.
Create a checklist of what your bussers need to do in different situations, and review it with them during one-on-one coaching sessions. Cement good customer service tactics in their mind so they become a natural part of their daily work routine.
These responses should become automatic over time, yet getting to that point requires diligence and gentle reminders on your part. Continue to work with your busser team even after they have become swift in their service.