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Dining Room Helper

Dining room helpers (bus boys / girls) typically work in restaurants, coffee shops, or cafeterias (cafeterias in schools, hospitals, large corporate buildings, museums, etc.). If you are a dining room helper, you will have some clearly defined tasks (e.g., clearing and wiping down dirty tables, carrying dishes to the kitchen).


This job sometimes requires a high school diploma and/or a GED certificate.

Previous Experience

Previous experience working in a restaurant setting (e.g., dishwasher, bus boy/girl, etc.) is preferred. Although many employers prefer that you have previous experience in the same or similar area of employment setting, it is strongly encouraged that you apply anyways - everybody has to start somewhere!

Job Duties

  • Clearing dirty dishes/cups/utensils from tables.
  • Carrying dirty dishes/cups/utensils to the back of the kitchen for dishwashing.
  • Scraping food off dirty dishes and emptying out cups/glasses for dishwashing.
  • Wiping down dirty tables and seats with moist cloths, and removing soiled linens (tablecloths).
  • Setting tables with clean tablecloths, napkins, and silverware.
  • Re-stocking napkin dispensers, shining silverware, wrapping silverware, and re-filling condiment bottles and shakers.
  • Serving glasses of water to customers and re-filling water glasses when low.
  • Stacking supplies and clean dishes, cups/glasses, and silverware.
  • Mopping or sweeping the floor, and collecting dirt and debris in a dustpan.
  • Emptying out the dustpan in a garbage or squeezing out the mop into a bucket.
  • Taking out trash bags.
  • Your employer may also ask you to carry out additional duties than those listed here.

What’s Your Scene?

This job requires that you are able to work "Behind the Scene."  If you are working as a dining room helper in the food service industry, you will be working near customers.  However, you won’t have to talk with customers on a regular basis.  You will need to interact with co-workers (e.g., waiters, cooks) on a regular basis and offer your help when they need it. 

Skills / Abilities

Customer Service Skills - Although you won’t be interacting with customers on a regular basis, you will need to have some knowledge of customer service. This means that you’ll need to pay attention to customers’ needs and help them if they need it. For example, if you see a customer sitting down at a table with dirty dishes, you’ll probably want to walk up to the table and ask politely if you can clear the table for them.

Manual Dexterity — You will need to be able to carry multiple dishes, and utensils in both hands. In addition, you may be required to fill condiment containers (e.g., salt shakers or ketchup bottles), requiring the use of fine motor skills.

Ability to Follow Health and Safety Procedures - Working in the food service industry requires that you closely follow health and safety rules and procedures. You will need to be able to carry out these procedures and follow these rules for the safety of restaurant patrons and your employer. Cleanliness is an important part of following health and safety codes.

Environmental Demands

Location - Restaurants/cafes are typically indoors, although some restaurants and cafes have outdoor patios, and may require you to clean tables outside as well as inside. If you do work indoors, it will usually be in a climate-controlled setting.

Noise Level - The noise level will generally be moderate, although it can get fairly noisy during busy times (e.g., lunch or supper time).

Lighting Level - Lighting in these settings can be very different, and it will be up to your employer to choose whether they use florescent lighting, dim lighting, or natural lighting.

Work Hours - This job often has shorter working shifts - and you will have to let your employer know what types of shifts you can work (e.g., mornings, afternoons, evenings).

Amount of Movement - This is not the type of job that typically includes sitting for long periods of time. You will need to be able to stand, walk, bend, reach, and sometimes lift items for this type of job.

Cleanliness and Odors - You will have to tolerate getting a little messy if you get food or beverages on your clothing, and you will be cleaning tables and chairs after a meal. This job requires helping to maintain a clean work environment (e.g., carrying dirty dishes to the kitchen, wiping tables, sweeping).

Work Attire - Work attire will typically range from a uniform to casual clothing.  Some employers will require that you wear an apron, a hair net or hat, rubber gloves, and/or a t-shirt with the company logo on it.

Structure and Predictability - This job will typically have a lower degree of predictability and structure.  This means that although you might do the same tasks each day, these tasks might be completed in a different order each day.  You might not always know ahead of time how long each task will take to complete. In addition, you might not work in the same areas or location each day, or interact with the same people (i.e. particularly customers) each day. 

What's the Pace?

    • Steady: In most cases, the work pace will be steady, which means that there will always be 1-2 tables for you to clean. 
    • Peak: There might be other times when the restaurant is very busy and there are 4-6 tables that need to be cleaned.  This may be a more stressful period because customers are waiting for clean tables so they can sit down to eat. 
    • Slow:  There may also be some "down time," when there are very few customers in the restaurant.  This may be a more boring period, where you are required to just wait for something to do. 

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