UnderCover Waitress: Busser Tip-Outs

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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Busser Tip-Outs

Ask the Waitress!

"Is it legal to tip a busser less than the required percentage?" 

The short answer:
State and federal laws do not require those employed as waitresses to pay other employees anything. Employers are responsible for compensating employees.

Employers, however, may make rules that waitresses must tip out bussers. While it is not illegal to break this rule and doing so will not result in jail time, employers are within their rights to fire employees who break the rules.

So, it is not illegal, but you could be fired for it.

The long answer: 
The government has laws that all businesses must follow. The Department of Labor sets the minimum wage for tipped employees at $2.13 per hour, a less than generous payment. The Department of Labor also requires that restaurant owners ensure that tipped employees go home with at least minimum wage in their pockets. The money brought home is a combination of tipped employee minimum wage and tips.

A "tip credit" is the amount of money the waitress must make in tips in order to make full minimum wage. Let's use easy numbers as an example:

If tipped employee wage is $4, and
Full minimum wage is $6, then
The tip credit is $2. The waitress must bring home at least $2 for every hour worked.

Tip Outs

Waitresses are often required to pay bussers (and sometimes other front of house staff members) a "tip out." This is a portion of her tips that is considered busser income. In theory, she usually pays the busser about ten percent of her tips. In reality, some waitresses lie (and some don't.) If she made $200 and owes the busser $20, she may only claim $150 and pay the busser $15. Officially, she made $135. In reality, she leaves with $185 in her pocket.

That is why many managers require that the waitress pay the busser a percentage of her sales. If they make the assumption, as they often do, that the waitress is earning twenty percent, then she is required to pay the busser $20 for every $1,000 in sales.

Technically, she must still bring home full minimum wage after tip outs. If not, the owner owes her money.

Bussers


Some restaurants pay bussers full minimum wage. Bussers are not considered tipped employees; however, they receive additional compensation via tip outs. Some restaurants consider bussers to be tipped employees, and pay them less than full minimum wage.

Per the Department of Labor, to be considered a tipped employee you must make at least $30 in tips per month. That is not a lot of money if you are working full-time. Therefore, an employer may choose to consider a busser a tipped employee and pay the busser less than full minimum wage. The tip outs from the waitresses must bring the busser up to full minimum wage. If not, the owner owes the busser money.

It is the owner's responsibility to make sure everybody makes at least full minimum wage. It is not the waitress' responsibility to make sure everybody is compensated fairly.

In the end, there is no federal nor state law requiring waitresses to pay bussers a certain percentage of their tips. Therefore, failing to do so is not illegal.

Restaurants, however, may make rules requiring waitresses to tip out bussers a specific percentage of their sales. Failure to do so is considered insubordination. Breaking this rule may result in the waitress being fired. 

22 comments :

  1. It gets even more complicated the further you go along, it seems....

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    1. Does any other industry use one employee's compensation to pay another? Restaurants are bizarre.

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  2. It is total crap that waitresses have to supplement so many peoples incomes, whether they work for it or not, and whether the waitress gets a tip or not, total crap! Beyond bizarre...

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    1. Bullshiit. Servers are usually winey babies. especially if the busser takes on server assistant role. bidders work their ass of only to be accommodated a fraction of what servers do. I'm going to quit my bussing job at a high end steakhouse and try and get a serving job at chili's or something. bet I will still make loads more money

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  3. The restaurant where i am now working employs bussers as non tipped employees and pays them the pa min wage of 7.25/hr, but policy requires the servers to give 10% of their reported tips to the front if there is a busser on staff that day, but they take home alll of their tips on days without bussers. This seems like a form of wage theft to me, as bussers receive no tips at all. Is this legal? If not, what can i do about it as an employee to make things fair for the employees in the front of house?

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    1. Yes, it is legal. A busser is a front of house employee who contributes to the service of tipping diners. It is legal for the employer to require waitresses to tip out bussers, regardless of the bussers' minimum wage. A "tipped employee" may make more than the tipped employee minimum wage.

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    2. I live in Minnesota where the minimum wage is 7.25...wait assistants and servers make the same wage. However, it IS NOT legal in this state to require servers to tip out anyone. If someone chooses to give them a lesser amount, the managers hands are tied..Personally, I think it is wrong to expect a server to supplement anyone's income..the restaurant should be paying them a higher wage. But instead expect the servers to make up that difference!

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  4. What about this? We tip out 3% of out sales to out busser and expo. Even on the nights where we dont have one. When I asked about that, I was told ha the tip outs are to pay got their wage, because they are on work release! Why we tip out someone who isnt there is beyonf me! not to mentio, WE pay the credit card fees too! is this all legal I wonder? state of flordia.

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  5. I don't know where you guys in the comments are getting your information from . I am a busser and I make $3.50 an hour plus 20% in pooled tips. So as to say a busser doesn't deserve any tips, keep in mind that we are the ones who clean your tables, seats, and side work after you guys(servers) leave. I work very hard at my job, heck I even have to take drink and food orders for some of the servers. Sorry, it just bothered me.

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    1. I am certain you work hard. I think it is egregious that you are paid less than full minimum wage. Of course, it is legal to pay you as a tipped employee, but I think the employer should be paying you more and the other staff -- ie, the waitresses -- should be paying you less. How much they should tip you out does depend upon the amount of work you do. I think wait staff should be doing the sidework, and bussers should go home when the rush is over.

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  6. The whole theory behind trying to have as much staff in the front of the house have to earn their income through excellent service is how restaurants are built in the United States. Having to earn tips they have to work hard at pleasing thus making service better to make people come back to the restaurant. If you look at France for instance where yyou dont tip, you get crappy service. So the restaurant pays higher staff pay and give crap service and does shit business. That is why restaurants are so nice to dine at in the united states. Bussers who are not tipped end up smoking sigs in the back of the restaurant and being jerks. Sort of like a car salesman having to try to get money out of customers to make the dealership money. If they didnt make commission then they would all sell for the lowest price and the dealership would go out of business.

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  7. My bosses make me tip the chef...in a five star restaraunt we are required to tip the executive chef ...??? Is this legal??

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    1. No, not at all. It is considered wage theft by the federal government to require tip sharing with the back of the house. No state can change that. Your boss is breaking federal law.

      If you complain to the boss, he can fire you in retaliation. However, if you complain to the DOL, I believe you may not be retaliated against.

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    2. I am joining this conversation really late, but I am trying to find any legitimate advice on how to handle my new work situation. I have been a server for years, and have always worked in places that are busy that it feels necessary to tip out a busser/bartender/sometimes the kitchen. However, I just started working in a restaurant where we are required to tip out 4% of our food sales to the kitchen, 4% to the bar, and 1.5% to the busser. The problem I have with this is that all of the people mentioned make minimum wage or more and I am paid 3.35/hr. I have been making about $15-40 (one night I made $4 after having to tip out $3) and tipping out the kitchen at least $11 on a SLOW night. I completely understand WHY servers would want to tip out kitchen, but in this case it makes absolutely no sense. As servers, we do hours of kitchen prep work for our own side work (peeling shrimp, portioning chicken/beef/rice/pasta, crumbling cheese...to name a few). Is it even legal to require a server to tip pretty much 30% of their tips? It seems like it has to be illegal just based on the fact that our wages are the only ones adjusted because we are apparently making up for it in tips.

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  8. When I make $170 in a night, after tipping out supporting staff- $130, fine.
    What I won't do- is claim $170! I made $130, now it's their responsibility to pay tax on that money, not me. They should claim it.

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  9. At the restaurant where I work at servers are so lazy, we are servers dog there is so much we can handle and when the servers don't do their job in pre- bussing then it annoys. I would so either for a higher tip percentage or higher pay as I am the only busser controlling a 2-3 hours with servers that look at me as I am their slave or something, hello we only get a small percentage of your tips its not like they are giving me half of their tips,idk it just pisses me off

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    1. 'Twas ever thus. The system seems set up for failure. It is all too common for bussers to be resentful of demanding servers who pay a small percentage of tips for the help, and servers to be resentful of bussers who are getting a portion of their tips and not doing more, more, more! In general, I sympathize with both sides because the entire system is set up in an unfair way

      Fair: require restaurant owners to pay employees a living wage, and stop pitting some employees against others by using tips to compensate so many employees.

      Marisela, what does your restaurant owner drive? (I'm serious.)

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  10. Sorry UCW, but despite your assertion to the contrary, it is against the law for a restaurant to require a server to tip out another employee and further, a restaurant cannot lawfully fire a server for not tipping out another employee. Doing so would be an example of wrongful termination and the restaurant would be civilly liable in virtually every state and likely under federal law as well. In short, a server not being obligated to tip out another employee would be considered a protected activity since it is against the law for a restaurant to require a person to do so and firing a person for engaging in a protected activity is considered wrongful in a legal sense and would expose the employer to civil liability. However, this isn't a legal issue, it is a practical one. We all know that if you don't want to be the last server to have your drinks made and your tables bussed, you tip these people. During my 14+ years as a server, I always took good care of the bussers, but resented the amounts of money I had to give to the bartenders who made substantially more than the servers.

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    1. What state are you in? In most states it is perfectly legal for employers to require servers to "participate in valid tip pools." Kentucky is one state that says employers may NOT force servers to tip out other FOH staff.

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    2. PS: I just learned that about Kentucky recently.
      UCW

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  11. At a restaurant where I work at. They make us tips out 3% to the house. they say the money help pay for the busser & other employee in the house (owner). Is this legal?

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  12. It should be against the law for a Waiter to refuse tipping out a busser. I bust my ass off! I'm fast and I help out with other waiter's and bussers. This guy named Dreek, try stiffing me. I wasn't going to have it! I been there all day into the night bussing and this guy try to take my tips! He a horrible Waiter for doing that! it may not be against the law but where I work the management has rules. The Busser get's 15%. I'm trying to support my disable mother with this job, I make under 5 dollars an hour and tips are the life line.

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