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Interview Questions for a Restaurant Candidates (Examples)

Jim McCormickAuthor

How to Conduct an Interview at Your Restaurant

Let’s face it - interviews are the last thing on your mind when you’re running a busy restaurant. Between operational logistics, keeping current staff supported, figuring out schedules, and managing finance, it can be difficult to pencil in interviews for hiring new restaurant staff in general. 

That being said, keep in mind that a well-staffed restaurant keeps current all-stars from quitting or becoming burnt out, gives the schedule some breathing room, and allows you to breathe a little knowing that your restaurant staff are qualified and passionate about your business.

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Interview Questions Template

With culture questions, experience questions, and situational questions, this customizable Word doc will guide your interviews with prospective candidates.


Restaurant Interview Tips

When you’re in the position where you need to hire additional positions for your restaurant, it’s time to get organized for the interview phase. One way to do this is by planning out the interview itself, how it will go, what you will ask, and the pacing. 

That way you don’t miss anything and also convey a professional business to your restaurant candidate. It might be a great time to share a little bit of your “origin story” - what made you join the restaurant business? If you’re the owner, what was your inspiration? 

By establishing who you are and a little bit about the leadership structure at the restaurant you help the candidate get a feel for how things work and begin to wrap their head around what their future job might look like. Giving more background information also helps both you and the candidate get a better understanding of whether this job is a good fit for them.

Explain the Need for the Role

After you’ve helped the candidate understand the restaurant and a little bit about the operational background, this is a good time to introduce the position they are interviewing for in more detail. What are the expectations in terms of shift length? Are they managing someone else? Who are they reporting to? What does success look like in this role? 

You can help make the interview even better if you took a few minutes prior to the interview to thoroughly review their resume and previous experience so you can ask specific questions as you go. Once you have shared the position and asked them about their experiences along the way, you can also gather more details such as their knowledge of food safety, and certifications they have, and what their previous roles and responsibilities looked like.

Culture Fit

Even though you’re looking for a hire specific to your restaurant, it is still important to evaluate their leadership potential. Consider asking them when they demonstrated leadership, or how they conveyed leadership ability by dealing with a challenge at one of their previous positions. 

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, while having a leader or future management material may come in handy, what ultimately matters when hiring for your restaurant is making sure they are passionate about the industry in general, and that talking to customers and interacting with customers about food is something they enjoy and intellectually curious about.

Next Steps

Wrap up the interview by thanking the candidate and letting them know as much as you can about next steps in the hiring process. For instance, when are you hoping to make a final decision and, ideally, when would you like the hire to start? Taking the time to do this shows them that you are a considerate staff member and it demonstrates the level of professionalism of your restaurant. 

Still having trouble thinking of specific questions for the interview? Let’s help you get started. Here are ten questions to consider when hiring your restaurant staff member, as well as ten ideal answers to those questions to help you evaluate your candidates.

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Interview Questions Template

With culture questions, experience questions, and situational questions, this customizable Word doc will guide your interviews with prospective candidates.


Restaurant Interview Questions

What do you like about working at restaurants? 

I really enjoy the pacing, being around people and working as a team. Restaurants take a ton of teamwork to work well, and I like being helpful, learning on the job, and being able to fill in whenever I can. 

I love hearing about what the chef is making and I enjoy hearing about people’s favorite dishes. When you work at a restaurant you also have a chance to really get to know the menu, so you can make better recommendations and share enthusiasm with the guests.

The customer says they want to try something unique or new, what do you suggest? 

The first thing I would ask is if there is something they really don’t like, to help rule out an unhelpful suggestion. Then I usually like to suggest two things - the most popular or mainstream dish that everyone loves, as well as my personal favorite dish. 

This way, they don’t feel pressured to order something they aren’t interested in just because I said it was my favorite, and they can go with what other people enjoy as well. If they express a specific preference, I try to think of the most-loved dishes in that category.

This is a modern restaurant and our customers love the convenience of paying in many different ways. What are some of the different payment methods you are familiar with? 

In my prior experience working at a restaurant we accepted cash, credit, debit, and mobile pay. Additionally, we accepted gift cards which operated like credit cards and could be swiped at the point of sale, and then the customer would receive a receipt with whatever remaining balance they have left on the card after their purchase. 

We also accepted coupons and rewards points for purchases, which were integrated into the point of sale system and could be applied to any transaction, except for gift cards.

Are you a morning person or do you work better in the evenings or nights? Why? 

Working in a restaurant, unless you’re serving breakfast, you need to have a great deal of energy from lunchtime into the evening. While initially I had to adjust to being with a rush of customers at lunch and in the evening, I now find it exciting. 

While most of my experience has been working in the evenings, I was happy to cover afternoon and earlier shifts that started right when the restaurant opened at noon. When I did, I made sure to have a large coffee in the early afternoon to beat any afternoon slump in my energy, but then I was good to go.

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? 

Whenever I’m new at a position, I like to learn what the other people like to do and what they are best at, and then make sure to observe them and learn from them on the job. While I have worked at restaurants in the past, every business is run a little bit differently, and so learning how other people do things that have more experience is helpful in helping me learn on the job. 

When I’m new, I also try to not have any preferences on how we divide work since I want to learn how to do everything. I’m happy to take on new tasks and get experience with every part of the restaurant. While I love working with people that I know and have an established working relationship with, it is always fun to get to know other staff members, see how they interact with customers, and gain some of their knowledge for the menu offerings and customer preferences.

What is your favorite restaurant order and why? 

Personally I love ordering any daily specials, whether it is the soup or the entree of the night. Usually it is something the chef is passionate about, ordered with just enough for a few days so limited time, and can incorporate seasonal or particularly delicious ingredients. It’s also a chance to see the chef’s creativity and find out what he or she really excels at making.

How would you explain your favorite appetizer? 

With appetizers, I like to order larger orders that can be shared among four people or more. I don’t like to get too full before dinner so I want to order something where I can have a delicious bite or two, but not a full meal. 

In this case, you can also order multiple appetizers so everyone can try a little bit of everything. I like classics like wings but I also enjoy sharing salads and anything cheese-related.

Tell me a little bit about how you keep the working space tidy. 

When handling food and money, it’s important to keep things as clean as possible. I make sure to make frequent trips to the restroom or use hand sanitizer after handling cash or returning change to a customer. 

Additionally, I make sure that takeout orders always go directly into the bag and don’t land on another surface in transit. Of course if something is touched or dropped it is thrown away. I also consider the freshness of items. If we sell items that keep for a few days, I make sure they are properly heated and handled.

Why are you passionate about working at a restaurant? 

I love hospitality! Going out to eat at a restaurant is a great way to celebrate an occasion, catch up with a friend, or even spend some quality time with yourself alone. For food lovers, we walk up thinking about how much joy it brings us, and I love sharing that. I love helping people relax and find a new location to meet up with friends, or go on a first date, or go out on a friday night after a long week at work.

What are your long-term career goals and how does working at this restaurant help you achieve them? 

My long-term plans are to own a small business or to become involved with food and beverage in some way. I would love to develop my own artisan product and begin trying to sell at farmer’s markets. 

I love learning how businesses work and what goes into making a profit. I feel like working at a restaurant you learn about how the business is run and you start to develop a holistic understanding of the business. It’s something I’m passionate about so I think no matter what working at a restaurant will help me learn more about the industry and potentially owning my own small business someday.

Final Thoughts

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.


Employee Handbook Template

Outline your restaurant’s staff policies in this customizable Word doc to help restaurant management and staff get on the same page.


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