Welcome to the sizzling world of restaurant interviews, where the aroma of success fills the air!
As you embark on this culinary adventure, it’s essential to sharpen your skills and prepare for the most delectable questions that will leave the hiring managers wanting more.
Get ready to feast on essential skills to focus on, savor the taste of basic interview questions, and conquer the challenging ones with finesse.
So, put on your apron and let’s dive into the flavorful journey of restaurant interview questions!
“Hospitality is almost impossible to teach. It’s all about hiring the right people.” – Danny Meyer
Table of Contents
- Skills to focus on
- Basic Interview Questions
- Difficult Interview Questions
Skills to focus on when answering restaurant & hospitality interview questions
When applying and interviewing for a role in a restaurant or other businesses in the hospitality industry, it’s important to lead with and focus on certain qualities. Certain skill sets stand out when it comes to providing a great guest or operational experience.
When you have a dish that’s been 86’d or you have co-workers who call in sick, things can get stressful in a restaurant. It’s important to be able to manage that stress so you can help the team to the fullest. Showcasing this trait in your answers will help the hiring manager or restaurant owner understand that they’ll have someone they can rely on when things go sideways.
Similar to the situations that arise that can be stressful, these scenarios also require you to be adaptable. A hiring manager will want to know if their team can count on you to help in other areas of the business.
For example, if a hostess calls in sick, can you help manage and host new guests? If customers change their mind or if menus change on the fly due to ingredient shortages, can you adapt and help the restaurant to continue providing great service? That’s what the hiring manager wants to see.
“Teamwork is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” – Andrew Carnegie
This quote is exceptionally true when it comes to working in the hospitality industry. Without a high functioning team, the business cannot provide the guests with the exceptional experience that they are looking for. The hiring manager will want to know that you enjoy and can work successfully as a team member. Whether that’s leading the team to a positive outcome or working with others and collaborating effectively.
The most important skill you can bring to the table in hospitality is customer service. In almost every role, even operational roles, customer service is of utmost importance. Without it, a restaurant cannot survive as guests won’t come back. Showcasing how you’ve provided excellent customer service during different situations will help you in your restaurant interviews.
Working in a restaurant is all about initiative. Do you have the initiative to do what it takes to make the guests happy?
Any restaurant owner or hiring manager will be looking for how you take initiative. Whether it’s taking initiative to help improve a guest loyalty program or helping a hostess who is new and is stressing on the job. Show how you take initiative.
6 Basic Interview Questions
1. Why were you interested in this job role & our company?
While this may sound obvious since you’ve applied and shown up for the interview, this question helps the restaurant manager understand why you chose to apply for that specific restaurant. As well as understand why you’re a fit for the role.
How to Answer
Show you’ve done your research: When answering, this is your time to speak about how you discovered the company and role. If you’ve frequented the restaurant, heard great stories on social media or received a referral from a friend, this is the time to bring that up.
Briefly mention your experience for the job role: The interviewer is asking this question to get a quick gauge on your experience and why you think this is the role for you. Which opens the perfect opportunity for you to give a high-level overview of your relevant or most recent experiences.
“I’m passionate about food and hospitality, and your restaurant’s excellent reputation aligns perfectly with my values. Your focus on employee growth and the positive work environment you offer are also compelling reasons why I’m interested in joining your company.”
2. What is your experience working in a restaurant?
Experience in the restaurant industry is unmatched when it comes to developing your skills for any role in the industry. Since working in a restaurant is not taught in schools or programs, direct experience is a major player in deciding whether or not the manager will want to hire you.
If you’re new, don’t fret. Showcase your other experiences in life that relate to those main skills that the interviewer is looking for, stress management, customer service, initiative, etc.
How to Answer
Dive into your specific experiences: Now is the time to run through your relevant work experience in more detail. It’s best to start sequentially with your oldest relevant experience and work your way to your most recent job.
Play to your strengths: Double down on not only explaining your past experiences but also some of the areas you excelled in and helped the restaurant thrive. Don’t be afraid to show off.
“I’ve been fortunate to work in the restaurant industry for five years, during which I’ve mastered exceptional customer service, handling peak hours smoothly, and anticipating guest needs. My ability to upsell and create memorable dining experiences has led to a 20% increase in customer satisfaction at my previous establishment. I thrive in fast-paced environments and am eager to bring my passion for food and hospitality to contribute to your restaurant’s success.”
3. Discuss a time when you had to handle an unhappy customer? What was the outcome?
Dealing with an unhappy customer will most likely come up in your time working in a restaurant. Maybe they had different expectations than what the restaurant provides. Or maybe they’re just having a bad day. Whatever it is, you’ll need to be prepared to discuss a scenario.
Pro Tip: Use the STAR Method when answering scenario-based questions. This will help you provide a succinct answer that provides a WOW factor above other candidates.
How to Answer
Uncover your conflict management skills: Discuss how you’ve turned a not-so-nice situation into a customer delight.
Patience is key: In any intense customer situation, the interviewer will be looking to see if you have the patience to handle these situations.
“During a busy evening, a customer was dissatisfied with their order due to a mistake in the kitchen. I approached the situation calmly, listened attentively to their concerns, and empathized with their frustration. I promptly offered a sincere apology and ensured the correct order was promptly prepared. Additionally, I offered a complimentary dessert as a gesture of goodwill.”
4. What achievement are you most proud of?
While this may sound irrelevant, the hiring manager or restaurant owner will be looking to see how you can get through adversity and stick to a goal.
How to Answer
Be personal and professional: Ideally, try and provide two answers. The first being an answer about personal achievement. Maybe it’s saving up and buying your first car.
The second answer should showcase a professional achievement. This can help the interviewer understand how you can help that restaurant excel in an area you’re passionate about.
“I’m incredibly proud of completing a half-marathon last year. It was a personal goal that required months of dedicated training and perseverance. Crossing the finish line gave me a tremendous sense of accomplishment and reinforced my belief in setting ambitious goals and working hard to achieve them. Qualities I bring to every aspect of my life, including work in the restaurant industry.”
5. What does great customer service mean to you?
Everyone will have a different answer for what great customer service means. And with customer service being a pinnacle for success in a restaurant, it’s time to show-off how you go above and beyond to provide great customer service to all.
How to Answer
Showcase how you go above and beyond: If you’re applying for a chef position, this could include quick meal preparation time or strong substitutes to an 86’d item. For a host, great customer service may mean finding the perfect table that a regular guest requests, even on a busy Friday night.
“Great customer service means anticipating and fulfilling guests’ needs promptly and courteously. In a restaurant setting, it’s about warmly welcoming diners, providing personalized recommendations, and ensuring timely food and beverage service. Addressing any concerns with a positive attitude and promptly resolving issues is crucial.”
6. Why are you leaving your current position?
Leaving a job isn’t a bad thing. The main item that the restaurant hiring manager is looking to understand is if there has been a problematic dismissal at other places of employment.
How to Answer
Be honest and provide reassurance: Again, the most important part here is to be honest. If you’re leaving your current role so you have flexibility while you attend school, or want more career growth in a restaurant environment, make that known so the hiring manager knows how you’ll fit in.
“I’ve decided to leave my current position because I believe there are better opportunities for career growth and fulfilment in a different restaurant environment. While I’ve appreciated my time there, I am genuinely passionate about the type of cuisine and dining experience your restaurant offers. I am confident that joining your team would allow me to contribute my skills and dedication to create exceptional dining experiences for your valued customers.”
7 Difficult Interview Questions
1. How do you handle an 86’d item?
A common restaurant term “eighty six” or “86”, means that an item is no longer available. In a fast-paced kitchen and changes in daily demand from guests, items can run out unexpectedly.
How to Answer
Meeting customer needs at all costs: How you handle this can make or break a customer’s experience, so the interviewer will be looking for an answer where you still satisfy the customer’s needs, when they cannot get exactly what they came for.
“If a guest asks for an item that the kitchen has just 86’d, I would handle it with honesty and empathy. I’d sincerely apologize for the inconvenience and explain the situation politely. Then, I’d promptly suggest alternative menu options that are similar to what they were looking for, ensuring they feel taken care of and valued. My goal is to turn this moment into a positive experience by providing excellent service and ensuring the guest leaves satisfied with their dining choice.”
2. How do you handle a shift where others call in sick?
Shift trades and shift covering is the name of the game in the restaurant industry. Even with managers using smart scheduling tools, there will come a time when you’re asked to cover a shift or work the restaurant with fewer co-workers.
How to Answer
Can you cover a shift? It’s ok to set boundaries, but a restaurant interviewer will want to know if you take initiative and can be relied upon to cover a shift or put in that extra effort on shift to cover when others call in sick.
“I would immediately inform the management about the situation and offer my assistance within my capacity. I’ll prioritize tasks, communicate effectively with the team, and ensure everyone’s workload is balanced. My goal is to support my colleagues while maintaining a fair balance to ensure that we collectively get the job done without compromising anyone’s well-being.”
3. What’s been the most difficult area of your recent positions?
Everybody has job tasks they love and hate. When answering, be honest in discussing where you’ve had difficulty and your ideal outcome to these areas of difficulty.
How to Answer
Showcase your resilience: Everybody has a particular task or area of their job that is difficult to handle. While there may be the odd difficult situation, discuss how you recognize this area of difficulty and are working towards getting better skills or collaborating with team members to play to their strengths and help you in a difficult situation.
“The most difficult area in my recent positions has been managing multiple positions when someone calls in sick during busy shifts. However, I’ve developed resilience by staying organized, prioritizing effectively, and maintaining a positive attitude. I’ve learned to embrace challenges as opportunities for growth and have consistently risen to the occasion to ensure a smooth and enjoyable dining experience for our guests.”
4. How do you make the restaurant experience an 11/10 on your shift?
Providing an 11/10 experience isn’t just about the customer service that you provide guests, as that was answered in previous questions.
How to Answer
Here, they will be looking to understand how you make customer experiences an 11/10 for your co-workers. Think of an answer where you provided such a great experience that the guests went above and beyond to thank you, review the business, show appreciation to the manager, etc.
“For instance, during a busy night, I noticed a table getting impatient. I quickly engaged them with genuine conversation, offered complimentary appetizers, and informed my coworker to ensure prompt service. The guests left delighted, and my coworkers appreciated the team effort.”
5. If you notice a co-worker not pulling their weight, what would you do or say?
Your interviewer will want to know how you handle conflict in a professional work environment. Since teamwork is such an important aspect to working in a restaurant, discussing problematic situations with other co-workers or bringing them up with a manager is very important.
How to Answer
Be sincere while recognizing the need for improvement: While it’s important to tell the hiring manager that you can speak up when you need more help from team members, you must do so in a sincere way. This will show that you can give important feedback in an empathetic way to avoid hurting someone’s feelings.
“If I noticed a co-worker not pulling their weight, I would approach them privately and with empathy. I’d express my concern, offering assistance if they needed help or guidance. For example, during a busy shift, if I noticed a colleague struggling with orders because they recently went through a personal hardship and had to get back to work, I’d offer to take over some of their tables temporarily to ease the workload”
6. If you could have dinner with any 5 people, who would they be and what restaurant would you pick? Why?
This is a fun question with no right or wrong answer. However, the restaurant owner or hiring manager is looking for you to showcase your personality. As with any role in hospitality, especially the restaurant industry, being personable with guests can go a long way to creating a great customer experience.
How to Answer
Be fun with it: Don’t overthink this question, be as honest as you can and have fun with it. Talk about your idols, family, friends, or whoever else you’d love to have a dinner with and explain why. Let them understand the qualities in these people that you admire and why this dinner would be important to you.
“I would choose to have dinner with Michelle Obama, Elon Musk, Serena Williams, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Malala Yousafzai. The restaurant I would pick is a cozy and vibrant Italian trattoria, as it fosters a relaxed atmosphere for engaging conversations. Having these accomplished individuals at the table would inspire diverse discussions about leadership, innovation, science, and social impact. “
7. Did you change any processes or procedures in your last jobs that made an impact in the restaurant?
Processes and procedures can make or break a customer’s experience or even the employees experience. If you’ve been involved in initiatives that have helped improve processes that build a positive result for employees or guests, this is your time to show off.
How to Answer
Small or large, show you made an impact: No matter the change in the company and the size of the impact, share how you’ve been able to reach that using the STAR method. This will help you answer the question and give all the necessary context the interviewer will be looking for.
“In my previous job, I noticed that the process of taking reservations was causing delays and confusion. I suggested implementing a digital reservation system to streamline the process. The change significantly reduced wait times, improved organization, and enhanced customer satisfaction. Customers appreciated the efficiency, and the team benefited from better time management, leading to a smoother dining experience overall.”
Finding Work as a Restaurant Worker with Evolia
Finding your next restaurant shift has never been easier. With Evolia, simply check out the flexible job board and find out what shifts are available that you’d like to pick up.
To begin, head over the live shift board to see what available shifts are near you. Once you’ve found some shifts you’d like to pick-up and work, create a free Evolia account so you can apply.
Once the account is created, you’re ready to showcase your awesome skill sets and show interest for a shift. From there, the employer will see your interest and will invite you to work that shift if your skill set fits what they are looking for.
And, that’s it! You can find shifts to apply for within minutes and get working right away. No more long interview processes and timelines to start working and earning.
You’ve completed your flavorful journey through restaurant interview questions, and you’re now equipped with the perfect recipe for success.
By focusing on essential skills, tackling basic questions with confidence, and fearlessly conquering the difficult ones, you’ve proven yourself as a great restaurant employee candidate.
Now get out there and ace those interviews.