Hiring isn’t easy, especially when you work in a busy—and let’s face it, sometimes frantic—environment like a restaurant. So, what restaurant interview questions will help you find the right team members? What should you ask to suss out the best of the bunch?
We’ll review it all with these 25 restaurant interview questions for BOH and FOH roles, plus everything in between.
The purpose of interviews in a restaurant
Interviews can be tricky, and not just for the person who’s answering the questions and sweatin’ up a storm as they do it. Interviews can be stressful for the person asking the questions, too. Likely, you: the hiring manager.
As a hiring manager, you’ve got lots on your plate, and need a team who can handle the responsibilities that come with working in your restaurant. To get there, you’ll need to prepare your job postings, have a list of candidates to choose from, and have a set of restaurant interview questions to prep yourself for the task at hand: hiring.
And to make sure you’re hiring the right employees, you’ll need to host a solid interview. Or, in most cases, interviews. It’s a process, and an important one at that.
Sure, your goal is to meet the staffing needs of your restaurant, but you also want to make sure you’re building a team that, well, acts like a team. In addition, you’ll want employees who fit the vibe and atmosphere of your restaurant, or in business speak, are “on brand”.
Maybe you want enthusiastic, warm, organized and approachable FOH employees. Or if you’re one of those needs-reservations-six-months-in-advance type of restaurants, maybe you’re looking for a little more mystique in your new hires. Whatever the case, the interview process is a way to understand who you’re hiring, their strengths, persona, experience, and their capabilities to get the job done.
Interview best practices for restaurant hiring managers
Hiring managers, rejoice! There are a number of interview best practices and resources out there to help you find the right employees. Here are three to get you started.
1. Prepare for the interview
You know what they say: preparing is caring. Okay, so maybe that’s not exactly the phrase, but trust us: when you prepare for the interview, the person sitting on the other side of the table will feel a lot more comfortable. It’s a win-win for you both.
And don’t worry. Preparing doesn’t have to take all day. Simply reading your candidate’s resume, taking the time to reflect on their past experience, and you know, knowing their name and how to pronounce it, can go a long way.
It shows respect, and gives a glimpse into the welcoming work environment the interviewee might get to be a part of.
2. Set the right environment
Picture this: you’re short staffed but have a candidate coming in for an interview in just 15 minutes. What do you do? Shrug and host the interview in the middle of a busy kitchen or messy break room, or take a few minutes to set the stage for a calm, clean, and comfortable environment? Hopefully the latter.
Interviews are stressful enough without the extra noise and commotion. But by preparing an environment that you and your interviewee both want to be in for the next 30 minutes, you’ll both have a better overall experience. And of course, it’s always great to actually hear the candidate’s answers.
3. Ask the right questions
Asking the right questions comes down to what you want to get out of the interview. That could be a deeper understanding of their experience, how well they perform under pressure, or what they’re looking for in a job.
Depending on the role, you’ll need a different set of questions, too. For example, you probably don’t need to ask a line cook about their experience with online reservation software or a server about how they cook the perfect filet mignon. (Rare, obviously.)
25 restaurant interview questions to ask candidates
It’s time for the main course: 25 restaurant interview questions that your candidates can’t wait to answer.
Common interview questions
Before you dig deep into experience or goals, keep it casual with these five common interview questions.
1: Tell me about yourself.
Look for someone who is comfortable speaking personably and authentically. They should be able to spout off a concise answer with one or two personal facts about themselves, too—not just their time working in restaurants. Although: that’s always a perk.
2: Why do you want to work here?
This question will help you get a sense of how well the candidate knows your restaurant. Look for an answer that includes details about your business, like your team, menu, and work environment, while also touching on how that might impact how the individual likes to work: around for the hustle and bustle or in a more laid back environment that’s suited to the early shift?
3: What are your greatest strengths?
This can be a tough one, especially because not everyone likes to talk about themselves. That said, some people do—a lot.
Look for an answer that isn’t boastful, but reflects the responsibilities that are required from the role. For example, a candidate might say they’re a fantastic listener and conversationalist. This could be ideal for a bartender who might spend their evenings making drinks for your customers while making small talk with your regulars.
4: What are your biggest weaknesses?
Again, not everyone loves talking about themselves, or the things they wish they could improve on. But in an interview, it’s important to ask.
You’ll want an answer that is honest and self-aware, and shows a willingness to learn and improve.
5: What’s your favorite part about this role?
See how much your candidates know about the role they’re applying for, and how their favorite parts match up to the realities of the job.
Unique interview questions
Next up is a set of out-of-the-box questions to get an idea of personality and culture fit. A word of advice before we begin: skip the “how many golf balls fit into a school bus” question. It’s as overdone as a burnt steak.
6: Do you agree with the idea that “the customer is always right”?
This restaurant interview question gives you a sense of an employee’s thought process, and how they work through different scenarios. It also helps you understand how they prioritize customer satisfaction, and what that might mean for their teammates.
7: What makes a restaurant stand out from competitors?
This question can give you a glimpse into how invested your employees may be, and how they can help shape the future of your restaurant.
For example, a candidate might talk about extraordinary customer service or new event ideas that can bring in new customers. These types of comments show that they want the job, and also want your restaurant to succeed.
8: You overhear that table 12 is celebrating an anniversary. What do you do?
This restaurant interview question puts your candidate on the spot with an everyday scenario. Their answers can indicate their comfort level with spontaneity, and how they might work with their teammates to make a customer’s experience even better.
9: Are you more of a morning person or a night owl?
You’re not asking this because you want to party. You’re asking this restaurant interview question to find out how your new coworker reacts to an inquiry that’s posed with a bit of levity. Plus, you want to know what shifts are best suited to them.
For instance, if they admit to being more of a night owl, is the morning shift serving your early birds really the best idea? We don’t think your 6 a.m. regular, aptly referred to as Chipper Charlie, would agree.
10: How do you define a good shift?
This question lets the candidate reflect on what they value in a workplace, and how they define success and satisfaction in their roles. They might answer that a good shift means hitting sales targets or a night where they didn’t get a break. Or, they might value a shift where every customer leaves with a smile on their face.
There’s no right answer to this question, but it will give you insight on how you can create a good environment for your future employees.
Situational interview questions
Sticky situations are common, especially while working in a restaurant. Here’ are five questions to ask that will help you determine how your candidates work best in different situations and environments.
11: Tell us about a time when you had a difficult customer. How did you handle it?
Look for people skills and a calm demeanor. You’ll want someone who can work with a customer in these scenarios, and can also problem solve on the spot.
12: Can you tell me about a time you went above and beyond for a customer?
This restaurant interview question gives you more insight into how your potential hire interacts with guests and builds relationships with customers. Once they provide a scenario, ask them why they helped this customer and what happened after the interaction.
13: We all make mistakes. How do you handle yours?
Mistakes happen. Maybe a customer was brought a soda instead of a seltzer, or maybe they were served the wrong meal after waiting 30 minutes to place their order. Whatever the mistake, find out how your candidate deals with them, and how they’re learning from them.
14: How do you handle fast-paced environments?
Are you hiring a multi-tasker? Someone who can keep up conversation while remembering Table 10’s dietary restrictions? This restaurant interview question will help you assess whether or not your newest employee can handle stress, communicate with their team, and prioritize their tasks.
5 performance interview questions
Hiring for positions that require a bit more organization, management, and people skills? Here are a few questions to ask that will help you assess your candidate’s expertise.
15: What would you do if an employee didn’t show up for their shift?
Missing a shift or two can be common for employees, but it can also create distrust and frustration between teammates, which can lead to a toxic workplace. This question will help you understand how well your future employee works with others, handles stress, and their levels of empathy and compassion.
16: How do you handle conflicts or disagreements with coworkers?
Team players don’t get along 100% of the time. This question helps you learn about how your new hires may deal with disagreements, and better yet, how they get past them.
17: Can you describe a scenario where you worked collaboratively with teammates?
Working in a restaurant isn’t a one-person job. This question assesses not only how well your new hire will work with their team, but the roles and personas they might take on as they do so.
For example, are they more of a take-charge leader or does collaboration mean tackling a to-do list with a coworker? You’ll find out with this question.
18: Can you explain your process for prioritizing tasks?
Ask this question if you’re looking to evaluate your new employee’s ability to manage workloads and tasks in a busy environment. Pay attention to the steps they outline, tools they use, and any concrete examples they give that demonstrates their abilities to do so.
19: Where/how do you see yourself excelling on this team?
This question is like a crystal ball. It can give you an idea of where your employees may shine, and the types of responsibilities they may want to take on as they continue working for your restaurant. It can also show you what they’ll enjoy doing, and even give you clues as to what type of roles won’t suit them.
For instance, if they see themselves excelling in FOH roles because of their familiarity with the customers and the menu, maybe joining as a dishwasher is less than ideal for them and your restaurant.
Leadership interview questions
If you’re looking to hire managers or team leads, you’ll want to know that they can motivate employees, stay organized, and have what it takes to keep shifts under control. Here are five questions to ask to help you determine who’s right for the role.
20: Have you managed a team before?
It may seem obvious, but asking about past experience that’s directly related to the role is important—even if it’s laid out on their resume. By asking the question, you can learn more about their past jobs; what worked, what didn’t, and why they’re looking to manage your team.
21: What’s your management style?
Management styles come in all shapes and forms: the cheerleader, the get-sh*t-done’er, and the my-way-or-the-highway types, just to name a few. You know your restaurant best, so determine what style suits your team before asking the question.
22: What are your favorite tools to stay organized?
Sticky notes? Task lists? A bulletin board on the back of the break-room door? Learn about what your restaurant leaders use to stay on track, and determine their capabilities for trying new tools.
Bonus: if they already have experience using your current systems—or maybe even better ones—they could teach you and your team a thing or two.
23: How do you celebrate success?
Good days are common for your restaurant, which means high fives are, too. Ask your leadership teammates how they say thanks, show praise, and celebrate wins with their coworkers.
24: How do you deal with shift problems, like no-shows or late clock-ins?
Okay, so maybe not everyday is a good day. Somedays, you’ve got no-shows or employees who clock in 15 minutes late, or worse: have their buddy punch-in for them so they don’t lose pay. When interviewing, ask how your newest coworker would deal with this, and how they would track it, too.
25: What do you need in order to succeed in this role?
This is where you can shine. Listen to your interviewee about what they need to succeed, then get ready to boost the pros of working at your restaurant and how you can help them win at work. Talk culture, communication, flexibility, PTO, HR policies, and praise.
And don’t be shy. They know how great your restaurant is, which is exactly why they applied.
Homebase for restaurant hiring
Hiring for your restaurant might happen more than you think. With busy peaks—hello, patio season—followed by short-lived lulls, you might have to interview and hire workers on a regular basis.
Thankfully, you’ve got Homebase to help.
Homebase provides you with a library of pre-written, customized job descriptions, and can even post your job for free to top online job boards. Need more eyes on it? Promote your job with paid boosts to reach more applicants faster.
When it comes to tracking and sorting through all of your candidates, Homebase keeps it all in one place—even walk-in and referral applicants. Once you’ve collected them all, use Homebase to identify the best candidates with screener questions, and resources just like this blog post.
Ready to coordinate interviews? Message applicants and schedule interviews all within Homebase, and once you’ve found your next great hire and they’ve signed the dotted line, you can add them to your restaurant’s schedule and timesheets in just one click. And yep, you guessed it—that’s all housed in Homebase, too.
“I love the functionality of this software. All the applications come through one portal on the Homebase platform, making it very easy to screen, contact, or interview job applicants.” – Chris Williams, Owner at Loads of Clothes in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Is your business struggling with interviewing for your restaurant? Find help on job postings, interview questions, hiring, and onboarding best practices with Homebase. Get started for free.
Restaurant interview questions FAQs
What is the purpose of an interview for roles in the restaurant industry?
In the restaurant industry, there are lots of roles that need to be filled. The purpose of an interview in this industry allows hiring managers to get a better sense of who they’re hiring, their strengths, persona, experience, and their capabilities to get the job done.
Ultimately, it lets a restaurant find the right person for the job and their team.
What are the best practices for conducting restaurant job interviews?
Three best practices for conducting restaurant job interviews are to prepare for the interview by knowing who is coming in, setting the right environment, and asking the right questions.
Hiring managers should have a clear understanding of the role they are looking to fill, what’s needed for it, and how to best assess that for their team.
What are common interview questions for restaurant managers to ask?
Common interview questions for a restaurant manager to ask can include:
- Tell me about yourself
- Why do you want to work here?
- What’s your experience in this industry?
- What’s your favorite part about this role?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
These questions can help a hiring manager get to know the candidate and how they will do in their role, and interact with the team and customers.
Is your business struggling with interviewing for your restaurant? Homebase can help with job postings, interview questions, hiring, and onboarding best practices with Homebase. Get started for free.