Why busboys are a godsend to the PH fast food industry

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REY ELBO

REY ELBO

IF you happen to visit fast food restaurants in other countries, you’ll understand why busboys are unnecessary to pick up leftovers and trash from customers. That’s because customers are expected to observe the clean-as-you-go practice. Cleaning up is respect for others. At home, it includes putting down the toilet seat cover for your mother-in-law.

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If you don’t do that, you’ll be marked as rude, irresponsible, if not downright stupid.

Thanks to my GMRC (good manners and right conduct) training when I was in kindergarten. Even now, I still have a solid grasp of “respect for people” long before Toyota took it as a corporate mantra. That’s why I still long for those days when GMRC was taught to day care pupils before they learned their ABCs.

Sad to say in this country, young kids are first taught about freedom and democracy, instead of GMRC. That’s why you see some of those kids losing respect for law and order as they beg for money from pedestrians, while throwing away candy wrappers and empty snack packs along one’s tracks. Most likely, they learned that from their parents, or other adults around them.

These young kids of recent years have grown up to be today’s fast food customers whose interpretation of freedom includes the right to toss trash anywhere they please, like dogs shamelessly leaving their poops in a public park. These wastes include Styrofoam packets, leftover food, plastic spoons and forks, hamburger paper covers, ketchup sachets, and plastic cups. I often find myself wondering what has led to this irresponsible behavior.

Even the traditional religious parades are contaminated by this bad practice of relying on other people to clean up one’s own mess. That’s why Traslacion (the annual procession of Black Nazarene in Manila) is often called as “trashlacion” by environmental groups.

Going back to the basic definition – a busboy, or one who does busser duties as a waiter-apprentice in a restaurant, performs the task of cleaning tables, taking dirty plates to the kitchen, filling/refilling water glasses, sweeping or mopping the floor, cleaning the restaurant’s glass panels, and at times – opening doors for customers. If you’re a senior citizen, you may request a busboy to buy your meal and skip the long line at the counter while you’re seated comfortably at your table.

The job had been previously referred to as “omnibus boy”—a job below the rank of a waiter, with an assignment to perform unskilled tasks in a restaurant, including taking out the trash in time for collection by the garbage collectors.

Indeed, the law of unintended consequence has caught up with us. Due to the emergence of discourteous customers in fast food restaurants, the hiring of busboys has become an industry-wide practice in this country. It’s like the number-coding scheme that’s intended to solve the metro traffic but is undermined by people who buy a second, and even a third, vehicle to skirt the rule.

Of course, I’m not complaining about the hiring of busboys. The advantages to the industry stakeholders are gigantic, if not galactic. It gives part-time employment to working students, many of whom are poor but deserve help.

The system gives students the chance to work in a business environment, be trained in professional customer service, and be responsible for themselves, including eating a daily ‘Spartan’ diet, consisting of a small fish flavored by chicken gravy on a mountain of rice.

On the part of the restaurant management, the busboy system offers the best possible legal option against the “endo” hiring of workers. Busboys don’t demand high salaries. They’re willing to forego regular status, at least while they’re working for their college degrees. They work hard hoping that the management would be easily swayed to issue a positive recommendation to the busboy’s prospective employer when he graduates.

Busboys, because they’re not part of the regular workforce, are not qualified to join an employees’ union. More importantly, they’re young and energetic. They can act really fast and systematically. They can clean up tables in less than 10 seconds because their cleaning tools (spray sanitizer and dry towels) are within reach from their belt carrier.

If Japan has its world-class janitorial teams that can clean shinkansen (bullet train) in a “7-minute miracle cleaning” process, then the Philippine busboy system can be its fierce competitor for the world crown.

The busboy system is an apprenticeship program elevated to the next level. It’s another case when you turn a problem of dealing with a discourteous customer into an opportunity to boost the country’s employment rate.

Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback to elbonomics@gmail.com or follow him on Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter for his random management ideas.

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