Demoted To Busser

Rachael wrote (edited):

I’m a server and without my consent our restaurant decided each server would have to be scheduled as a busboy. The woman making the schedule says she’s splitting the shifts but I have seen a ‘top’ waitress only have one bussing shift in one week and haven’t seen her do it since then. … this has been going on for a few months, and … I’ve only seen her do it once, while … I’ve been scheduled to do it 3 times, and this week I was not given any serving shifts. I feel that this is somehow not something I should have to deal with since I was hired as a server, not a bus boy. Please help!

Thanks for your question, Rachael.

I had a similar experience to yours (though yours is decidedly worse).

Then, I was being forced to work banquet parties (something I was not hired to do) vs. regular floor-serving. Admittedly more a lateral move than being demoted to busser.

It’s not comforting, but if you brainstorm for other professions where workers can be shuttled back and forth between positions, you will come up with lots of them. If your boss in the sales department of XYZ Widgets decides to move you to telemarketing, you kinda just have to do it. Likewise if she shifts you to a crappy territory. Regular companies do it all the time and it is framed this way:

‘We’re moving you to <blank> at a <blank> cut in pay. You can have the job if you like. If not, we’re going to have to part ways.’

You have three options:

  1. Do/say nothing and just suck it up, grateful for (or bitter about) the job you have.
  2. Get another job and then quit your current place. Very few restaurants practice the BS you are encountering.
  3. Sit down with someone high up in management and have a calm, reasoned, cooperative conversation about your objections. Including offering a suggestion to fix things.

I recommend #3. But be prepared to find another job. They won’t fire you as long as you continue to cover the busser shifts, yet if they don’t change the system you will be miserable and resentful.

What I didn’t know when I wrote my post, was the fallout from my confrontation with management. The rest of that holiday season – and in fact forevermore – I was not asked to work another banquet. I was lucky. Management took to heart my considerations and objections and apparently decided I was right.

I don’t expect you to have the same luck.

You could try making a stand based on the principle you were hired to be a server, and you chose the job because of that. You could, by all means, play the money card for sympathy – tell them the cut in income makes it impossible to pay your rent, child care, DUI fines, whatever.

As for possible solutions, the most obvious is hire (more?) bussers! Or what about eliminating the position and having all waiters bus their own tables, fill their own waters, bring their own bread, etc? That way no one gets preferential treatment like the ‘top’ server you mention. Or start a tip pooling arrangement where you do cycle through busboy shifts, but the busser position gets the same cut as the waiters?

I’m not hopeful about any of those solutions besides hiring bussers, and I’m guessing that’s not on the table (pardon the pun). So you should reconcile yourself to working at a different restaurant if nothing happens from your communication efforts.

However, before you take any steps, consider whether it will be wise to change jobs.

I don’t know what kind of money you make (i.e., how desirable your serving job is). It matters because if you are pulling $300 a server shift along with $100 on the busser shift, that would still add up to a great bank deposit at the end of a 5 shift week. Your pride might feel better in another job where you didn’t suffer the indignity of bussing tables, but it’d be a hollow victory at $150 a shift.

On the other hand, if you’re in an average-paying server job, then just get out and into another average one (or better!). Just don’t quit till you’re out of training at the new restaurant.

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2 thoughts on “Demoted To Busser

  1. Eric Sat, December 3, 2016 / 9:03 am

    I had a similar experience to yours but my case was much worse. So by experience, I can tell you that #2 (get another job and then quit your current place) is by far the best option. I suggest you start looking immediately before things get worse and you get assigned most of the busboy shifts. Sure sounded like that is the direction the manager is going. Let me tell you what happened to me by doing/saying nothing and just suck it up.
    I wrote a little about this in a comment to another post here a while ago. I started when I was still in high school a few years ago. My first job was working as a waiter in a small quick pace restaurant alongside with a couple of other guys who were in college at the time. We did not have busboys at the time so we have to bus and re-set our own tables. After about a year, the restaurant expanded, promoted one of the guys to be a manager and hired additional servers. They also decided to have busboys and hired a couple of high school kids for that. I have to train all the new servers and the busboys on how the restaurant works. The restaurant expansion was a huge success and we were making good money. Everyone was happy until one of the busboys wanted a promotion/raise. I have to admit that he was an excellent busboy and deserved to be promoted to server if a position was available. He was also well-liked by the manager and all the servers. I even told the managers and in fact pushed for his promotion to become a server instead of losing him and have to retrain someone else. I even suggested to the manager that maybe we can change to 5 servers with 1 busboy instead of 4 servers and 2 busboys on Friday-Sunday shifts if the servers can pick up the table setting and some pre-busing duties. I’ve done that before we had busboys so didn’t think it’s a big deal, but the other servers were against that. The manager even called a meeting with the servers to discuss the possibilities. I pushed hard for my suggestion and again told them that its better than losing the guy, but the other servers were reluctant to go along with that option even though they all liked the busboy and thought he was ready and deserved a promotion. They much rather losing him and have to train a new person instead. So I was surprised that when I went in the work after my days off after the meeting, I found the guy wearing server uniform and even congratulated him on his promotion and told him that I am happy for him. He gave me a wicked smile and before I asked what’s going on, the manager called me to the back room and informed me that I’ve been “re-assigned” to busboy duties and that I should be in busboy uniform instead. It was clear that he was not opened to discussion and I either quit right then and there or accept the re-assignment. The timing was not good to look for a new job and when I thought about it, I would still make almost as much as I made before the restaurant expansion although it would be less than half of what I was making at the time so I just decided to suck it up and became a busboy instead.
    It was really unfair to be demoted and became a busboy while all the servers were trained by me before. I was hoping that things will change after a short time but nothing happened for several months. I began looking for another job but the job market wasn’t great at the time. Worse yet, when I had interviews, they all asked about me being a server for 2 years but now a busboy and wondered why. Even in applications when I put down my job was server/busboy, the question still arise as what is the current position. It was even hard for me to get non-restaurant jobs as similar questions about my demotion always come up. I ended up working as a busboy throughout my college years.

  2. waiternotes Sat, December 3, 2016 / 3:11 pm

    A sad story, Eric. You are 100% right. Rachael will hopefully have an easier time switching restaurants considering she’s still officially a waiter.

    I’ll add that I typically advocate lying/fudging the truth on food serving applications when necessary. It sounds like you were checkmated because of the threat to verify current employment. But in Rachael’s case, I would omit mention of part-time bussing. In your case, I might have appropriated a recently closed restaurant as your last serving job – thus no one to refute your claim.

    Thanks for the cautionary tale.

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