The One Restaurant Find That Belongs in Every Kitchen

updated Apr 3, 2020
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Chef Cooking Food In Commercial Kitchen
Credit: Alto Images/Stocksy

Growing up, I spent a lot of time in and around pro kitchens. My dad worked as a restaurant chef and even owned and operated a family restaurant at one point. My very first summer job was bussing tables in one of his restaurants. Later, I worked in cafes and bakeries before working as a recipe developer and food stylist and eventually coming to work for Kitchn. As a result, I have a deep appreciation for restaurant staples — Cambro containers for food storage and as a home for my sourdough starter, for example, and the nearly indestructible restaurant baking sheets.

There is one restaurant staple that has been in every personal and professional kitchen of my life, and yet, it seems to be completely overlooked by most home cooks. I’m talking about bus tubs. Yes, those ugly plastic bins used to collect empty coffee mugs and dirty plates. Here’s why I think every kitchen needs a restaurant bus tub and how to use it right now, while many of us are home, cooking more than usual.

Every Home Needs a Restaurant Bus Tub

Bus tubs, also called bus bins, are large (around 20×15 inches) and deep (more than six inches). They are designed to be light enough to carry, even when loaded up with dirty dishes. They are sturdy and they last forever — even with regular, heavy duty use.

In restaurant kitchens, they aren’t just used for bussing tables; they are also used to hold lids and linens and help organize ingredients on large industrial shelving. On food cooking shows and photo sets, they are often used to corral ingredients for certain shots or scenes. At home, we have no less than six of these bins — and they almost never get used for bussing the table (though if you have a large family and small kitchen, they’d be a brilliant way to minimize dishes on the counter).

Credit: Meghan Splawn

One bus tub is currently holding laid-off lunch boxes. (We typically do this in the summer, but with school closed for the foreseeable future, they are safely stored in garage.) Another holds our pantry overflow — shelf stable foods we have on hand in case one of us gets sick. We’ve set clean, empty bus bins on our porch to receive “no contact” grocery deliveries, so we can bring the groceries inside quickly and efficiently.

My husband and I also recently filled one with water beads to entertain our kids for an hour in the back yard. Another gets regular use during the warmer months as a soap basin for cleaning off the patio future and the grill. Grill grates, which need heavy duty cleaning, also fit neatly in these bins.

You get the picture. If you don’t have one yet, I highly recommend one — or a half dozen.

Do you use these at home? If so, what do you use them for?