Dining Room Attendant
Dining Room Attendant
Education and Training: On-the-job training
Salary: Median—$7.17 per hour
Employment Outlook: Fair
Definition and Nature of the Work
Dining room attendants, formerly called busboys or bussers, work in restaurants, cafeterias, and hotel dining rooms. Attendants clear tables and unload their trays in the kitchen, separating the dishes, silverware, and linen. Then they reset the tables, laying tablecloths, arranging the silverware perfectly, lighting candles if appropriate, and filling flower vases. Dining room attendants may have to arrange tables and chairs to make room for large groups. They are responsible for seeing that the dining room is well stocked with utensils, napkins, glasses, tablecloths, table decorations, and foods such as butter and crackers or bread.
Dining room attendants may also be expected to dust woodwork, wash mirrors, vacuum carpets, clean and wax floors, and help to clean up spills. They are usually assigned to a station, which consists of several tables, but may help other attendants whose stations get very busy.
In addition to these duties, attendants act as assistants to waitresses and waiters. They get high chairs for children, help serve food, carry heavy trays, and fill water glasses. They clear dishes from tables between courses. Dining room attendants also act as messengers between the dining room staff and the kitchen staff.
Dining room attendants are usually supervised by other restaurant workers. Sometimes the supervisor is the waiter who works at the station with the dining room attendant. More often the supervisor is the headwaiter who manages the dining room. Sometimes the restaurant host instructs the dining room attendants.
Education and Training Requirements
Dining room attendants are not required to have a high school diploma. They typically receive on-the-job training, learning all about the operation of the kitchen and dining room. Their positions are considered starting points for other jobs in a restaurant, hotel, or cafeteria business. Some fine hotels offer training programs for all their employees, including dining room attendants, so that their customers receive the very best service. Many chain restaurants send their employees to a short training session.
Dining room attendants should have a neat, clean appearance, a pleasant manner, and the ability to follow directions. Many states require a health certificate stating that the attendant has no communicable diseases.
Getting the Job
Prospective dining room attendants can apply directly to hotels, restaurants, or cafeterias and answer want ads in the newspaper. The opening of new restaurants provides more opportunities for work. Individuals interested in working during the summer months only should apply to resorts well in advance of the tourist season.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Dining room attendants may be promoted to other positions. They may become waiters or waitresses. If they are interested in preparing food, they may become kitchen helpers. Because of the expansion of the restaurant business, a good worker will have many opportunities for job advancement.
Positions for dining room attendants are expected to grow about as fast as the average through 2014. There is one trend to note, however: although the number of restaurants is growing, waiters and waitresses are increasingly assuming the duties of dining room attendants.
Dining room attendants work at a fast pace and often under pressure. They have to perform a variety of tasks quickly and efficiently. Their surroundings are usually pleasant, well lighted, clean, and comfortable. However, the area where they unload dirty dishes may be hot and noisy. Dining room attendants should have plenty of energy and strength to lift heavy trays and move furniture. In order not to disturb customers, they must work very quietly.
Candidates must be good multi-taskers, meaning they are capable of doing many things at once. They have an opportunity to meet many interesting people, both fellow workers and customers. Full-time attendants may work forty to forty-eight hours per week. Some work on a part-time basis. Many dining room attendants belong to labor unions.
Where to Go for More Information
National Restaurant Association
1200 Seventeenth St. NW
Washington, DC 20036
Earnings and Benefits
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, dining room attendants earned a median hourly wage of $7.17 in 2004. New dining room attendants often begin at the minimum wage. Those who assist waiters or waitresses usually receive overtime pay. In some restaurants they may also receive a share of the wait staff's tips. Dining room attendants generally receive free meals while they work. Full-time workers may receive paid vacations and holidays, health and accident insurance, and retirement benefits.