Hiring restaurant employees isn't easy. You have to write an attractive job description, wade through applications, and, hopefully, choose the best candidates for interviews.
From there, you need to ask all the right questions to determine who's the most suitable for each restaurant role.
Make any mistakes during this process, and you could end up with a team that lacks the skills and characteristics needed to excel in a fast-paced environment.
So to help you find the best restaurant staff, here’s a list of 20 interview questions to ask. Continue reading to ensure you're asking the basic questions to find the diamonds in the rough.
What are common front of the house roles?
Front of the house restaurant jobs are customer-facing roles such as a bartender, server, and general manager. Front of house employees have contact with customers and are responsible for providing them with the best experience.
The front of the house of a restaurant includes areas like the bar/lounge area, dining room, entrances, lobby, patio, and private dining rooms.
And the roles responsible for servicing, cleaning, and managing these areas include hosts, food runners, bussers, bar-backs, and sommeliers.
Since front of house staff interact with customers directly, you should ask interview questions to determine their personality and demeanor. For example, are they friendly and customer service-oriented? Can they work on their own initiative?
When compiling interview questions for your restaurant's front of house staff, pose questions to see whether candidates are quick learners. Your customers will be asking your front-facing staff questions about the menu, drinks, and anything else relating to your restaurant. Therefore, they must spend time gathering knowledge to answer questions confidently.
What are common restaurant kitchen roles?
Restaurant kitchen jobs involve preparing and cooking food and keeping the kitchen space clean. These positions can range from line cook to executive chef, depending upon the size of the establishment. The most commonly held position is the sous chef, which translates into "under chef." This person oversees all aspects of the kitchen, including prep, baking, grilling, sautéing, broiling, frying, roasting, stewing, boiling, etc.
Other positions in the kitchen include cooks, kitchen managers, line cooks, prep cooks, pastry chefs, and sauce makers.
When interviewing for roles in the kitchen, you need to find staff who are patient, fast learners, and good at following directions. This is easy to do when you ask the right interview questions.
So, what are the right questions to ask?
Interview questions to ask every candidate (and how to analyze the answers)
It's time to gauge the potential of your new hires. What are their career goals, motivations, and why do they want this particular restaurant job? You'll find that out and more using the sample interview questions below.
1. What do you know about our franchise?
Sample answer: I'm familiar with your restaurant and its chains. Plus, my friend works here. They told me how great working here was, so I decided to apply.
Analysis: You're looking to see if the applicant has either worked with or engaged with your restaurant (or chain) in the past. This shows they're aware of the atmosphere, menu, etc.
2. Why do you want to work at our restaurant versus others?
Sample Answer: Because it's close to home and I've heard great reviews about the food and atmosphere.
Analysis: Don’t get put off if an applicant admits they want to work at your restaurant for the paycheck. If anything, money proves to be a great motivator for most workers. It’s an added bonus if someone mentions something like "I love the food" or "the environment," because this shows they’re familiar with your establishment and may appreciate working there.
3. How would you describe yourself as a leader?
Sample Answer: I am very organized and detail-oriented.
Analysis: Leadership skills are essential when running any business. It's also helpful to get insight into a candidate's leadership styles since some people prefer to lead by example while other leaders need to give orders.
4. Tell us about a situation where you had to make a decision quickly.
Sample Answer: When I first started working at a restaurant, I made a mistake and included nuts in an order and it caused an allergic reaction. Thankfully, the customer had medication on-hand and was alright. This ordeal made me more perceptive of how I handle future food orders.
Analysis: A fast-paced business requires employees who can think on their feet. It also means making decisions quickly when things go wrong. An applicant who admits mistakes and takes responsibility for his actions demonstrates leadership skills.
5. Describe a difficult customer interaction.
Sample Answer: One day while waiting tables, two people came up to me complaining about the waiters taking forever to bring them drinks. They were also upset because they wanted to order appetizers but didn't get any until after dinner. So with the manager's permission, I was able to offer them a 15% discount and a coupon for their next visit. In the end, they were happy.
Analysis: The ability to handle customers' complaints without getting angry or defensive is important in the restaurant industry. Being able to listen and empathize with people helps build trust between servers and guests.
6. Tell me about a time where you provided exceptional customer service.
Sample Answer: One time, a family came into our restaurant during a busy weekend. The youngest child was around three years old and was getting rowdy while waiting for their food. To help, I asked the parents if I could give them a free coloring book and a fruit cup during the wait. The child enjoyed the snack and was distracted long enough for the meal to arrive.
Analysis: Your restaurant employees should offer more than great serving and cooking skills. Being able to recognize problems and quickly conjure up solutions can keep the front of the house running smoothly (while also improving customer satisfaction).
7. Tell me about yourself.
Sample Answer: I’m currently studying biology at college. I live in the neighborhood and like to help people.
Analysis: Based on their answer, you can find out what other things they have going on in their life. It can also provide cues into other aspirations and goals they have, which shows determination and commitment.
8. How would you describe your ideal work environment?
Sample Answer: A place where people get along well and respect each other. Everyone has different personalities and needs, but we're able to understand them and support each other.
Analysis: You want to know what kind of atmosphere they'd prefer to work in. Do they enjoy interacting with others? Are they more comfortable alone, or do they need lots of socialization? These answers give insight into personality traits such as if someone is extroverted or introverted.
9. How would you describe yourself?
Sample Answer: I'm an outgoing person with a small group of friends. I value family and enjoy meeting new people, learning new things, and I have always been interested in culinary arts.
Analysis: If this candidate describes themselves as friendly, open-minded, and curious, they may be a good fit for the position. However, if they say something like "I don't care much for crowds" or "I hate talking to strangers," then they may not be suited for the job.
10. Describe what makes you excited about working here.
Sample Answer: Working here allows me to meet new people and make some money while doing something I really like!
Analysis: They’re comfortable interacting with both new and returning customers. And they’re motivated to do a good job.
11. Do you think you could handle the responsibility of managing a large group of employees?
Sample Answer: Yes, in the past, I’ve managed cooks in the kitchen during holiday seasons when the floor gets busy. This required me to advise both servers and cooks, while also providing hands-on help to get orders made and served quickly.
Analysis: Hiring great leaders is important in the restaurant industry, especially when things get busy. It’s not uncommon for an employee to take charge in moments of stress and disorder. This is what you need to prevent chaos among workers.
12. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Sample Answer: My strength is my ability to multitask; I can juggle many tasks at once without getting overwhelmed. So this makes me an exceptional server and hostess. My weakness is cooking, since I lack skills in this area.
Analysis: The purpose of this question is to gauge which positions are most suitable for the applicant. If they're forthcoming, then this will be easy to do. However, if their answer is ambiguous, then follow up with additional questions to learn more about how they would handle workplace situations.
13. What do you think the most important skills are for this role?
Sample Answer: I believe it's critical to have patience and strong attention to detail. This prevents you from mixing up orders and becoming stressed out when customers become impatient or even rude.
Analysis: The goal is to learn what skills the applicant values, while also gauging what they think is required to excel in a particular position. See if it aligns with your expectations.
14. Describe an accomplishment you're proud of.
Sample Answer: After graduating from high school, I went straight to community college and earned my associate degree in nursing. Then I transferred to another university to finish up my bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration. Now I’m almost done with my master’s degree in health care policy.
Analysis: An applicant who’s in college or even completed their degree can show they’re dedicated and a hard worker. This is critical in the restaurant industry where you tend to run into flaky employees who quit on a whim.
15. Do you consider yourself a team player?
Sample Answer: Yes. Every role I worked in the past required teamwork. So I'm used to collaborating with others, whether it's helping out in the kitchen or bussing tables on a busy night.
Analysis: Restaurants need more team players. This is true no matter the role the candidate works in. Functional kitchens and floors rely on your employees' ability to collaborate seamlessly.
16. What three skills do you bring to this role and why are they important?
Sample Answer: I'd say my most useful skills for a cooking role are being patient, meticulous, and a fast learner. This ensures the kitchen runs smoothly by preventing avoidable mistakes in orders, getting frustrated during times of stress, and becoming discouraged by difficult or new tasks.
Analysis: Knowing the skills the applicant brings to the table helps you determine whether they're the right fit. Do they list the traits you believe are essential to perform the role well?
17. If you were to be promoted in our restaurant, what role would you want to take on?
Sample Answer: I enjoy being a cook, but I always dreamed of becoming a head chef. I hope to one day manage a kitchen, since I have five years experience and understand what's required to run one efficiently.
Analysis: This is a great question because it tells you the applicant is considering future roles within your restaurant (showing they plan to stay long-term). Plus, it gives you insight into where they may be placed in the future.
18. Your resume shows you don't have restaurant experience. What skills have you picked up in other roles?
Sample Answer: I worked in a grocery store as a cashier for several years. During this time, I learned how to communicate with patrons, handle stress during busy times, and assist co-workers in their roles by helping them to bag, clean, or return stock to shelves. I'm a great team player and a fast learner, so I believe with the proper training, I can excel in the restaurant industry.
Analysis: This is an excellent answer because it shows the applicant has demonstrable skills that can be applied in your restaurant. You need team players who are motivated and easy to train.
19. How would you describe your management style?
Sample Answer: I'm a leader who doesn't micro-manage teams, but offers help whenever it's needed. I've trained and managed servers and hosts for years and they knew they could always come to me to ask questions. I never belittle my team or make them feel like I'm their boss. If anything, I like to think of myself as an advisor.
Analysis: You need managers in your restaurant who will get along with your employees, while also offering solid advice and guidance. Look for answers that showcase positive leadership traits to prevent clashes among your employees.
20. Why did you leave your last employer?
Sample Answer: After several years of employment, I decided to pursue other career options. I wasn't happy with my previous employer for several reasons. But I chose to leave on good terms to hopefully find a better opportunity.
Analysis: An honest response like this tells you everything about the applicant. They explain their stance on why they left and admit they were the ones to leave. Although they were unhappy with their previous situation, they didn't trash talk the old employer, which shows great character.
By adding these questions to your interview process, you'll find it easier to find better kitchen and FOH restaurant staff.
Build a world-class restaurant with the best FOH and kitchen staff
Hospitality and restaurant managers: Hiring the best staff for your establishment isn't just about looking for the best skills. If you fill the front of the house and kitchen with highly skilled workers that lack patience, respect, and other honorable traits, then you'll run your restaurant into the ground.
So asking the right interview questions is critical to finding a balance between skillset and quality attributes. Then to make onboarding, training, and managing your new team easier, you need the right tools.
Deputy makes it easy to schedule servers, bartenders, cooks, and baristas in seconds. Training your staff using the latest technology won't only benefit your employees, but it will also save you money and time in the long run. Use the above restaurant interview questions to help you select the right employees that you can invest in.
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