10 Restaurant Interview Questions and Why to Ask Them

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In this post, we present 10 restaurant interview questions and reasons to ask them. Building the right team for your restaurant is now more crucial than ever, as working amid a pandemic is truly difficult. While finding the best staff is no easy feat, you’ll be on the right track if you hone the interview process. Selecting the right questions for your business is a good place to start.

Selecting the Right Restaurant Interview Questions

Whether you are looking to hire a restaurant manager or server, you can cater your questions to fit experiences and expectations. Take some time to select good questions. You do not need to include all of these questions, but find the ones that fit your restaurant’s needs the best and reword them as needed. Feel free to keep things fun and engaging, too.

1. What drives you to want to work in the restaurant industry?

Lead with a question that is all about motivation. This can key you in to the candidate’s career goals as well as their passion. Someone with more intrinsic motivation (such as enjoying a positive work environment) versus extrinsic motivation (making money) could end up being a more productive, long-term employee, someone you want to obtain and retain.

2. What does the word “hospitality” mean to you?

Find out what it means to the interviewee to work in hospitality. What does the word mean to them? How does their definition align with yours?

Dictionary.com defines “hospitality” as “the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers” as well as “the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.” The ideal candidate should embody hospitality and understand that being hospitable is what restaurant service is really about.

3. How would you resolve a conflict with a co-worker during a dinner rush?

You probably remember having a co-worker you didn’t see eye to eye with. It’s inevitable that staff members will encounter issues with each other. Conflict resolution is something you can only teach so much of; your interviewee should demonstrate an ability to remain calm under pressure.

If your interviewee’s response does not demonstrate the same friendliness and dedication to service that you expect from your staff, then they’re not the right fit for your restaurant.

4. What is the best interaction you’ve ever had with a customer?

Asking an interviewee this question helps you gauge their approach toward customers while giving them something positive to share. This lets you know what the interviewee sees as being great service as well as how enthralled they are about their own successes.

Pay attention to their demeanor. Are they happy when they recall their story? Does the story seem too rehearsed? The way they recount it can tell you a lot about how they view hospitality. Often times, it’s not just about the verbal answers to your restaurant interview questions, it’s also about tone and body language, too.

5. What’s the worst interaction you’ve ever had with a customer?

Bad customer interactions happen, but opening up about failures is just as crucial as talking about successes.

Asking this question does two things: It helps you gauge what bad customer service means to this candidate, and it also shows how much responsibility they took versus how many excuses they made.

A great follow-up to this question is to ask what the applicant learned from the situation and how they handled it. (If you’re interested in behavior-based interviewing and questions like this one, you should check out our own interview with Author Jim Roddy. He offers several great points of advice on how to up your hiring game.)

6. What do you do when you aren’t at work?

Knowing who your employees are outside of work is important because you need to know that they are achieving a work-life balance or are capable of it. Does this interviewee have a healthy social life? Are they maintaining good grades in college?

Burnout is all too common in the hospitality industry, so having a work-life balance is essential. A candidate who already has an unhealthy balance might not be a good fit.

7. What is your single greatest weakness?

Look for your interviewee to mention weaknesses honestly and say that they’re working to improve them. While an employee with a hot temper won’t make a good team member, for example, an employee who is honest about working to improve their shyness could be.

8. How about your single greatest strength?

Where does your candidate shine, and how relevant is it to the restaurant industry? If they say they’re good with computers, that won’t be super beneficial in hospitality. However, if they mention they are good with people, are calm, or can stay focused on the task at hand, they might have a lot of potential.

9. Why do you think you’re a good fit for this position?

Among restaurant interview questions, this might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s a useful one to ask. A candidate should go the extra mile to provide a solid answer. Working in a restaurant can be challenging, and the candidate should let you know they have thick skin and can handle difficult situations.

They should also express passion for hospitality, some problem-solving skills, and interest in utilizing the position as a major stepping stone in their career goals pathway. For example, if someone wants to become a restaurant manager or hiring manager, they should let you know that this is part of their long-term goals and that they have long-term views for being with your restaurant in that capacity.

10. What do you already know about this restaurant in particular?

Leaving off on such a simple question as this might seem silly, but there is a point. It is meant to gauge the candidate’s genuine, maintained interest in your restaurant. If they have made it all the way to this point and still seem enthusiastic, they should be able to tell you just what brought them to your restaurant.

Have they been a patron there? Did they read an ad online? Did they just stop by? What about your restaurant and its environment is special to them? If they answer in a dull, monotone fashion, they most likely are just there to say they participated in a job interview.

However, if they seem excited and can give you specifics on why they were attracted to your place, they might be a good fit for the team.

Ending the Interview

Allow the interviewee time to ask you some questions, and be sure to answer them honestly. Let the candidate know that you genuinely appreciate the time they took to apply and interview for the position and that, even if they don’t get the job, you will keep their application on file for future reference (if you think they might still be a good fit). As you bring the interview to a close, you might also take the opportunity to highlight something unique or special about your restaurant. Something that will leave the applicant with a good impression.

Ready to take your restaurant interview questions to the next level? TimeForge’s applicant tracking and onboarding software can help you build your interview questions right into your hiring process. Once you do have the right team members working for your restaurant, you’ll need the right tools to manage them. We offer workforce management (WFM) solutions that can help improve productivity and control your restaurant’s expenses.

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