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10 Things Bussers Wish You Knew

You can give the waitstaff a hand by avoiding a handful of bad habits.

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Happy Latin American waiter cleaning up the tables at a restaurant and smiling - food service concepts andresr/E+

Don’t Take Things from Another Table

We’ve all been here—you’re missing a ketchup bottle and you notice the nearby table has one within reach. But the staff has a system, and when you take something from another table, that group will now be down an item when they’re seated. Next time, flag your server and ask for an extra. Here are more polite dining mistakes that people make.

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Waitress clearing up tablekumikomini/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Don’t Stack Your Dishes

This one is surprising, but stacking dishes for your busser may be more annoying than helpful. Bussers know what they’re doing, and they have a routine. Prestacking can interrupt their flow, so let them handle the cleanup. Check out the other things that annoy your waiter, too.

Moving dishes so they’re closer to the busser, though? That’s helpful.

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Brother and sister sightseeing Florence, Italy. Kids are having ice cream in sidewalk cafe.Imgorthand/iStock/Getty Images Plus

You Can Clean up After Your Kids

Staff at kid-friendly restaurants typically know how to handle toddlers, but whether you’re going to a local chain or a high-end restaurant, it’s helpful to clean up after a particularly messy meal. You don’t need to sweep the floors, but bussers say it’s helpful if you tidy up larger messes, like toppled plates and big spills.

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A restaurant table on the left are knives, forks and spoons stacked ontop of each other on the right four white linen napkins, wooden table, warm colours. Gill Copeland/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Don’t Put Clean Napkins on Dirty Plates

This goes for everything on the table: clean silverware, sugar packets, unused straws, etc. If it’s unused—and it’s not food—don’t add it to the dirty pile. This creates more work for your busser and ultimately leads to more waste. Check out these other restaurant secrets.

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Young couple is having lunch at outdoors cafe. fotostorm/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Push Your Chairs In

This one is another surprise, but if you’re sitting at a table with chairs, please push them in before you leave. No busser, server or customer wants to be weaving between empty chairs to get to their next location. Whether you’re going to one of the best restaurant in the U.S. or wrapping up a meal at your local cafe, be polite—push in that chair.

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A restaurant dinner table under natural light has been set with linens, silverware and stemware, and awaits its dinner clientele. sassy1902/E+

Don’t Blow Your Nose in a Cloth Napkin

Yes, this happens and no, don’t do it! Your napkin will get added to the pile of other cloth napkins that’s headed to the washer, and there’s nothing quite as horrifying as grabbing a cloth napkin and realizing your hand is covered in someone else’s sneeze.

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waitress cleaning the table in a restaurantJuanmonino/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Don’t Overfill Your Glasses

We often think we’re helping restaurant staff by pouring all our leftover beverages into one glass. That way they only have to carry one full glass back, right? But overfilled glasses are prone to spilling, so by pouring all your liquid into one glass, it actually makes your busser’s life harder.

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A server holds an overflowing bowl of poutine (french fries, cheese curds and gravy). PamelaJoeMcFarlane/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Don’t Leave Everything Sticky

This one goes for both adults and children—if you spill something, alert your server or busser, so they can clean it up. Water can be tackled with napkins, but if there’s a juice spill, soup overflow or chocolate sauce catastrophe—there’s no shame in asking for a cleanup at table five.

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Mykonos, Greece - October 12th, 2018: A male waiter clearing a table outdoors at a greek tavern in the waterfront of Mykonos, Greece.RUBEN RAMOS/iStock Editorial/Getty Images Plus

Keep Your Napkins Out of Those Glasses

Done with your meal? Please don’t put your napkin (or any kind of waste) in your drinking glass. When bussers take dishes back to the kitchen, they’re putting them straight in the dishwasher—unless they need to dig out a wet, used napkin from a glass. Yuck. See the dining etiquette rules that no one follows anymore.

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Shot of a man wiping a table in a cafe Charday Penn/iStock/Getty Images Plus

It’s OK to Tip!

At the end of the night, bussers get tipped from the pool, so you can rest easy knowing that some of your tip is going to them. If you have an exceptionally great busser, it’s more than OK to slip them a tip on your way out. Unless the restaurant has a policy against it, no one can turn down a good tip!

Kate Ellsworth
Kate is an avid baker, knitter and writer. Her passions include Star Wars, stress baking and—of course—chocolate. When she's not chasing her partner around the house asking him to try her latest recipe, Kate is probably knitting (another) sweater.