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How do busboys get paid?

While I realize it's probably up to the establishment, is there a general rule of thumb for 'fine dining' type establishments?

Last night, was out for a special occasion. Our server was average when he was present, but barely attentive - but it was really the busboy who took good care of us.

From what I know of the place, there seemed to be one busboy for every waiter. I left feeling like I should have given a portion of my tip to the busboy and left the rest for the waiter - but, I also figured, they probably had a method of splitting it.

Any thoughts as to how this is figured out? I'm frustrated at myself for not taking 5 minutes and inquiring about this....

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  1. In Fl they get minimum wage and 10-15% of tips to wait staff. They depend on honesty from the servers to actually give them their correct percentage and to remember to pay them at all.

    1. at most places, the bus/dish staff have a higher hourly wage than the servers, and the servers "tip out" the support staff, with percentages going to bus/dish, barstaff, host, etc. i would presume that the busser would make 10-15% of the server's tips as her/his "tip out" at the end of the night. sometimes the supporting staff, such as "runners," and less often, bus/dish, are in line for serving shifts at the restaurant.

      2 Replies
      1. re: soupkitten

        At my resto, the waiters tipped out the bussers between 15 and 20% of their gross tips received. You should have left a nice side tip for the busser and a lowly tip for your sub-par service from the waiter. And told the waiter why, too.
        Our bussers started @ min. wage, but several got raises depending on their length (and quality) of service. Good waiters are in readily available supply here in the Oakland/ SF area, but a good busboy or girl is worth their weight in petroleum!

        1. re: adamshoe

          I agree with you about good bussers, good ones have the skills of magicians crossed with the invisible man.

          My favorite used to be the one (and only) at Dong il Jang in LA. Empty dishes would vanish from your table without him seeming to slow down as he walked past. Water glasses seemed to automatically refill after hitting the half-full point. My wife at the time didn't even realize how good he was until I pointed it out, she then felt compelled to tip him a bit extra. Watching him work the other tables became part of the floor show.

      2. Busfolks make a better hourly wage, also the waitstaff usually 'tips out' the busfolks at the end of the night, it could be a fixed amount, depending on the place, or a percent of the waitstaff total for the evening. I've seen some places give as little $10 for the night. I would have slipped him something for salvaging your evening.

        1. It does depend on the restaurant but generally where I live (midwest) they make min. wage (unlike servers) and receive a portion of each server's tips. At independent places the percentage may be "suggested" and "on your honor" - they may tell you when you start that generally the bussers get 1% of your sales each night for example, and then you are expected to just give them that amount without anyone verifying your sales or what you've given them. In most chains I've worked at it is a flat percentage (1-3%) and you must hand it over when cashing in with the manager for the night, they give it to the bussers. You also have to tip the bar via the manager and it is another flat percentage (1-3). I think they do this because so many people were lying and trying to keep all the money they earned over the course of an evening. It's hard when you are undertipped or have a dine and dash or someone who left 6% or 8% tip and still have to fork over the tipout from what money you have leftover based on your sales, not your total tips. If you work a weeknight dinner shift and only had, say, 3 tables and made, say, $15 from each of them, you end up working like 6 hours with sidework and rolling silverware for your $45, then you end up having to give away $7 to tipout, so you're walking with $38 for 6 hours work. It's tough. Not saying I know the solution, other than elimination of all tip-dependent wage class (servers).

          1 Reply
          1. re: rockandroller1

            It's the same at my place, the benefit for the server is when people do tip well you get to keep the extra. So, while it hurts some shifts when you only walk with 10% of sales, other times you make 15% and it all works out.

          2. Most waiters know that it pays to keep the bus staff happy. They can make your shift wildly successful or miserable, so it's best to tip well. These are the people you can say"Please, I need 5 expressos for Table 20" or "Can you bring extra bread and butter to the group at Table 12", etc. They will be right there for the waiter who takes care of them at the end of the shift. I always over tipped the bus staff, and most waiters I knew did the same. They probably can make a good salary in the right kind of restaurant (expensive).

            1. When I bussed, I made $.10 over CO's minimum wage, plus 20% of the pooled waiters' tips from my station area. However, I'm pretty sure I was rarely tipped out properly, espcially when the tip was left in cash (no way of proving what the tip was!!). Waiters also need to tip out the bar (10% at one place I worked), so I think from their perspective, throwing 30% of their tips to others is not always when they want to be doing.

              4 Replies
              1. re: RosemaryHoney

                True, Rosemary, that a 30% (or even more) tip out can hurt at the end of the night, but a good server knows that hard working support staff--bussers, runners, bartenders--are worth their weight in gold. When I waited tables (after bussing for years) I always gave extra to the best bussers--they can make or break your night and the job is an incredibly exhausting one.

                1. re: nc213

                  agreed. it would never occur to me to short on a tip out, although i know that some bartenders i worked with would short the barbacks and it would drive me up a wall. my support staff knew that if i made money, we all made money, and they worked their tails off for me. they were worth every penny and more. the tip out system just breaks down horribly when one or two people get greedy and don't take care of the *team*!

                  1. re: soupkitten

                    yes, absolutely! i've been a busser and a barback, as well as a waitress and a bartender, so i've seen all sides of it. the support staff always knew which waiters/bartenders were not tipping out properly, and sometimes we slacked for them, knowing we wouldn't get our share anyhow, so nc213's point is exactly right. and from the OP, it sounds like the slacking waiter wasn't the kind to do the proper tipout for the hard working busboy! those kinds of people always drive me crazy!

                2. re: RosemaryHoney

                  When I was waiting, we were paid about 60% of minimum wage, while bussers did get the full minimum. When I worked at chains, we paid 4.5% of sales into the "tip pool", which the company then split up for cooks, busboys, hostesses, etc. When I worked at independents, it was up to me, but I generally had a great relationship with my busser, and I always gave them 20%, and 10% to the bar - to me, it was a small price to pay for all the help they gave me.

                3. I bussed at a fancy french restaurant while in college in Philadelphia, at the encouragement of my girlfriend who wanted to be squired in style like her sorority sisters, and my bridge group, who would camp out there with me on my days off beacuse my table check would be 50%.
                  I was paid 15% of the waitstaff's tips for as I recall about six 4-top tables. The extra bonus was when I cleared a bottle of Chateau Margaux or equivalent that was still 1/3 full...waste not, want not.