November 22, 2022

Server Tips: The Importance of Pre-Bussing

In this article: An in-depth look at the importance of pre-bussing as a server and how it elevates both the guest experience and the staff experience.

Pre-bussing. If you work in the FOH of any restaurant, chances are that even hearing the word gives you slight anxiety.

When I was a server, it felt like all my managers would say during a shift was “Pre-bus your tables! Why is no one pre-bussing?!” It always made me feel like no matter how hard I was working, my coworkers and I should be doing more, like we were missing a big piece of the service puzzle.

Looking back, it would have been helpful to understand what pre-bussing really is, how to do it correctly, and how it can make or break service for both the guests and your team.

In this article, we’re going to break it all down and dive into the importance of pre-bussing as a server.

What is pre-bussing?

Pre-bussing is actively clearing dirty plates, glassware and trash from your tables during service, instead of waiting until the guests have left.

If you work in a full-service restaurant, chances are that you have a support staff that includes dedicated bussers or server assistants. It is nearly impossible to hit every point of perfect service without these crucial members of the team, but you can’t expect them to do everything for you.

Too often servers and bartenders will ignore dirty dishes and empty glassware on the table, assuming that a member of the support staff will be right behind them to take care of it. Not only does this look bad to the guests, who are wondering why their server is too lazy to pick up the straw wrappers from their table, but it creates a culture where teamwork isn’t valued.

Yes, you tip out your bussers and SA’s at the end of the shift. This doesn’t mean that pre-bussing isn’t in your job description. In the next section we’ll get into exactly how to pre-bus throughout service, but remember that doing so will only elevate the guest experience (which will most likely lead to a bigger tip!) and create a culture of teamwork.

How to pre-bus correctly

Now that we know what pre-bussing is, we can talk about exactly how to do it effectively.

During every visit to the table, whether it’s to refill drinks or check in on your guests after their food has arrived, scan the table to see what they no longer need. 

This could be empty plates or glassware, dirty cutlery, bunched up napkins, food scraps, or trash. Pickup what you can while continuing to do whatever it is you came to the table for. 

*Note: If you aren’t 100% sure that the guest is finished with something, always ask “May I take this out of your way?”

The more you can clear during your already necessary trips to the table, the less work you and your team will have to do during course resetting or table resetting. This means faster table turns, which also leads to more money in your pocket.

If you notice that there is a lot that needs to be cleared from a table (more than you can easily carry with 2 hands) you may find a busser to help you, or grab a tray and quickly clear as much as you can. This only takes a few moments, even if you have to make an extra trip, and I promise it will save you so much time, plus it will improve the guests' experience 10-fold.

Benefits of pre-bussing

Throughout this article we have touched on a few of the benefits of pre-bussing during service, but let’s highlight them one more time:

  • Improved Guest Experience - Because pre-bussing is often the unnoticed indicator of seamless and impressive service, when you do so your guests are more likely to return, write you a great review, tip generously, or all of the above!

  • Culture of Teamwork - Actively pre-bussing as a server, bartender, or even as a host will gain you lots of respect from your managers, bussers and server assistants. They will recognize that you are a team player and have everyone’s best interests in mind, not just your own.

  • Faster Table Turns - Clearing dirty dishes and glasses throughout each seating will make flipping tables much faster! If done correctly, by the time the guests leave you should only need to do very minimal clearing, then sanitize and reset for the next party. 

Make sure to start implementing pre-bussing during your next shift to experience these benefits!

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In conclusion, pre-bussing is a must for all servers and bartenders. Once you get the hang of it, you will be subconsciously clearing tables and impressing your guests without even thinking about it!

Small details like this one are the keys to fantastic service. Our goal is to make everything seem easy and relaxed, even when we are very busy and stressed. Sometimes we even need to use our acting skills to do this, but when we master it our guests notice, and so does the rest of our team.

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