Interview Questions for a Hostess Candidates (Examples)
How to Conduct an Interview at Your Restaurant
A restaurant’s hostess sets the stage for the entire dining experience, but it can be a high turnover position, and general entry level making it tough to hire and even tougher to retain. Hiring the right staff member for your restaurant can be challenging, nevermind the logistics of the hiring process.
Operating a business that takes considerable manpower is exhausting and the last thing you want to do is to constantly find new staff. In this instance, though, extra effort in the hiring process can reap long-term rewards with a hostess that is conscientious, knowledgeable, and reliable, as well as passionate about hospitality.
Let us help you with a step-by-step guide to ensuring that you have done your due diligence in hiring the best hostess for your restaurant.
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Hostess Interview Tips
Start the interview process by introducing yourself and providing background information. This may sound obvious but in the rush of interviewing it can be easy to forget to situate yourself within the organization and to help the candidate get an understanding of how things work.
If you’re the owner, what made you decide to open a restaurant? What are you passionate about food-wise? Where does the restaurant fit into the neighborhood? It’s also important that the potential hire walks away understanding the values of the restaurant and what is most important in running the business.
It’s also smart on your end because you’re providing an accurate portrayal of the business and what they are singing on for.
Explain Need for the Role
While some people may think being a hostess working at a restauarant is self-explanatory, that is not the case. Is the hostess expected to take takeout orders? What is their involvement with to-go order food prep? Are they responsible for the full seating chart?
Some details on exactly what the job functions and expectations are set you and the candidate up for success because it establishes the ground rules from the onset. Before going into the deep questions, you want to make sure that, generally, you understand the candidates job qualifications and past experience. This means reviewing their resume before they come into the restaurant for their interview, and asking any clarifying questions you might have.
For example, you might want to decide ahead of time if prior experience working in a restaurant or as a hostess is a requirement for the position or if you have more experienced staff that can help them learn on the job.
Establish Job Requirements
Once you have that question answered, make sure you know what the candidate for your restaurant’s availability and preferred hours are. Are they a student and will need a changing schedule every semester? What is their expectation of time off? Making sure you understand how much you and the candidate expect him or her to be working is a great first step in aligning your expectations.
Make sure when you are discussing availability that you make clear the pacing of the restaurant. Is it a fast-paced establishment with tables bustling throughout the day? Are there lulls? All of this information will help to color the candidates perception of the job and the hours they expect to work.
Even though you’re looking for a hostess specific to your restaurant, it is still important to evaluate their growth potential. Ask them about their passions for food and beverage, or about other roles within the restaurant they are interested in someday attaining.
This will help you gauge whether this person might be a potential future manager or has an interest in being a leader in your establishment. Of course, this is in addition to the job at hand and their passion for talking to customers and interacting about food service and hospitality. When the interview draws to an end (try to keep it under 30 minutes maximum), make sure to always close with explaining what happens next in the hiring process.
If you have the ability, let them know when you are hoping to make a hiring decision, when you would hope that person would start, as well as any other pertinent information such as the hourly rate and how many candidates you hope to hire in total. Taking the time to do this shows them that you are a considerate manager and it demonstrates a commitment to professionalism.
Having trouble thinking of specific questions? Let’s help you get started. Here are ten questions to consider when hiring your next hostess, as well as ten ideal answers to those questions to help you evaluate your candidates.
Interview Questions Template
Hostess Interview Questions
How do you see your role as a hostess in terms of the customer experience?
The hostess is usually the customer’s first experience with the restaurant, so it’s incredibly important that it be positive. Customers should be greeted warmly, given correct information, and met with patience. Additionally, the hostess on the internal side, sets the organization for the restaurant seating.
Hostesses usually manage the seating arrangement and seat servers in a rotating order, or depending on busyness or customer request. It’s important to have a good relationship with your servers so they know that you seat them fairly, that if you seat someone twice it is due to the customer’s request to be in that section or with that server, and that the server can rely on you to manage seating when the restaurant is busy.
I like to think of the hostess as the person who sets the tone for the customer experience and starts the process off correctly in terms of service organization.
How do you manage takeout orders while being a hostess?
At the last restaurant I worked at there was often only one hostess staffed at a time, and that hostess was responsible for both takeout orders and seating customers. Of course, this can be hectic because sometimes the phone is ringing while you are talking to a customer and vice versa.
Since hostesses are managing in-restaurant greetings and customer experience, I always prioritize the customers who are in the restaurant first, and respond to takeout orders by calmly and politely asking those on the phone to hold until I have a moment to take their order completely. It is important not to interrupt the takeout order with multiple holds if possible so as to not make mistakes or confuse the person on the phone.
Takeout orders are then placed into the POS system immediately, as soon as the hostess has a chance to do so.
How do you manage wait times?
I was always taught to overestimate wait times slightly, if possible. The worst case scenario is that you tell a customer it will be a twenty minute wait for a table and it ends up being forty and they are upset and they do not feel that they can trust you.
This is why I always try to round up and consider what the longest wait time will be and provide that to the customer. This means looking around the restaurant, taking stock of how long tables have been there and where in the meal process they are. Secondly, it also matters how many tables there are in the restaurant.
With larger restaurants the wait time is decreased as more people are leaving and there are more opportunities for seating. Also, hostesses must consider and pre-existing reservations as those take precedence over walk-in waiting customers.
Do you prefer a long or “double” shift or working shorter shifts? Why?
Hostessing can be very busy but has less tasks than being a server or waitress, so I enjoy working longer or double shifts, which can be as long as 8-10 hours.
This allows you a chance to make a decent hourly pay, work through the lulls and rushes of the restaurant and get to know your customer base, practice skills when the restaurant is less busy, and receive tips from your servers throughout their shifts. When I work longer shifts it helps me to learn on the job and find the pacing of the position.
However, shorter shifts are necessary during the restaurant’s busiest times, like on a Friday or Saturday night, or when there will be a lot of takeout orders and seating and potentially more than one hostess working at a time.
How do you prefer to work with your coworkers? Do you like having shifts with the same people, and how do you split up division of labor?
As a hostess it’s so important to get to know all of the servers and learn how to work best with them. The same goes for bartenders, especially if they also take takeout orders and you’re working collaboratively with them. So as a hostess I prefer to get to know and have a good relationship with everyone.
Of course you’ll settle into a routine where you often work with many of the same people, but that also changes as people’s schedules change for different reasons.
If someone calls and asks for a takeout recommendation, what would you say?
I think as a hostess it’s so important to know what the specials are, especially because hostesses aren’t always specifically briefed on them. I love recommending dishes that I know the chef has specifically prepared, that the ingredients are extra fresh, and that are around for a limited time, so I often recommend the special.
However, not all foods are great as takeout. For instance, some foods become overheated and then mushier or it just isn’t the same experience eating for takeout as it is as dining-in. Steak, for instance, is best dine-in. But some foods can be great for takeout and even better thrown in the oven if they need to be reheated, like pizza or baked potatoes or soups. So I keep in mind, in addition to the specials, the type of food item and how well it travels.
What is your favorite takeout meal and how would you recommend it to a customer?
I love ordering soup for takeout, especially if the restaurant has bread bowls or a really good chili. If bread bowls are not an option, I like to recommend a side of garlic bread or something to dip in the soup.
This also travels really well. I love to recommend a bowl of house-made chili or beef stew, a side order of bread, perhaps an appetizer to go with it like an entree-sized salad, with dressing on the side. These things are just as good when taken home, and are incredibly filling and delicious. Also dessert cheesecake or other heartier desserts travel well so I recommend those if they have room for dessert or have a sweet tooth like I do.
Tell me a little bit about how you handle working when the restaurant is busy and keeping the hostess stand space tidy.
Between takeout orders, answering the phone, seating charts, and the list of specials as well as the takeout menu for reference, the hostess stand can get messy fast.
There are a couple ways to keep things neat. First, I have a designated pouch for pens so they aren’t rolling everywhere when I am trying to take a takeout order. Second, I keep a paper takeout menu underneath the stack of dine-in menus. This way I have if I need it but it’s not constantly out.
I also make sure to wipe down the hostess stand often so it doesn’t get dusty or sticky or messy. Lastly, if I am doing a task like silverware rollups, I try to do it near the hostess stand but not at the stand, so I have a designated workspace for side work.
Why are you passionate about working at a restaurant?
I am very social and I like being able to help people have a nice time and de-stress when they aren’t working.
Most of us are working most of the time, and going out to eat is such a treat and it should feel like one. I like to be friendly and warm and help set off a nice meal for the customers, get to know them, and help foster a memorable experience.
What are your long-term career goals and how does working as a server help you achieve them?
I am not sure what I want to do yet long-term but I want to learn as much as possible about the hospitality industry.
I know that whatever I end up doing will involve working with people and involve customer service of some kind so I like having this practice. I am also interested in the business aspect of restaurants, and so this is a great chance to learn and sharpen a skill while learning more about the business side of restaurants as well.
While hiring new staff always takes time and energy, make sure to remember that in the long-run who you hire will represent your business to your customers.
If you make the effort to hire the right candidates, who are a good fit for the position, you will retain wonderful staff who like their jobs, and have to do less hiring.
It’s more up-front work but the payoff is a win-win for everyone.
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