It takes a village to run a restaurant. From cooks to servers, bussers and managers, there are many different roles that need to be filled when running a restaurant. When hiring restaurant staff, it’s important to ask the right questions during the interview. The responses will help ensure that you hire friendly, helpful employees who genuinely want to please your customers.

What should you be asking? Here are 10 restaurant interview tips and questions to ask.

restaurant staff

1. Why Do You Want to Work for Us?

It’s one of the first questions asked when interviewing job candidates: why do you want to work for our company? The question is a simple one, but its answer can tell you a lot about the candidate and how serious they are about the position.

Why has the candidate chosen your restaurant in particular? Was it because of your stellar online reviews? Were they referred by a friend who had a good work experience?

The candidate’s answer can tell you a few things. Along with their enthusiasm and commitment, you may also gain a little insight into your restaurant’s reputation.

2. Tell Me About a Conflict You’ve Dealt with Involving a Customer and How You Handled It

Everyone working in the restaurant industry will encounter a difficult customer at some point. Unless the candidate is new to the field or only has a little bit of experience, there will most certainly be a memorable conflict with a customer.

The purpose of the question isn’t to hear a story about customer conflict; it’s to see how the candidate handled a difficult situation. What did they do to resolve the problem? Was everyone happy with the resolution? Did they admit to being wrong and apologize?

Your employees will undoubtedly have to deal with irritable or rude customers. It’s important for them to handle these types of situations in a calm, professional manner. If employees are rude or combative, the situation could easily escalate and reflect poorly on your restaurant’s image.

restaurant interview

3. What Does the Word “Hospitality” Mean to You?

Hospitality can mean different things to different people. It’s important for your employees to be on the same page as you on this subject. The candidate’s answer could tell you a lot about their behavior and how they will respond to guests.

According to Oxford, the dictionary definition of hospitality is, “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” Hopefully, the candidate’s answer is something along these lines.

If the response is very different from what you’re expecting, the candidate may not be a good fit for your restaurant.

4. How Do You Deal with Conflicts Involving Co-Workers?

It’s important to understand how the candidate deals with customer conflicts, but it’s equally important to understand how a co-worker conflict would be handled. The answer to this question will tell you whether or not the candidate is:

  • A team player

  • Mature

  • Able to deal with difficult personal situations

Conflicts between co-workers can ultimately affect customer service. Employees who tend to hold grudges or harbor resentment towards co-workers may be bad for business.

5. Tell Me About Your Hobbies

Every restaurant operator wants to hire dedicated employees. But work/life balance is important if you want them to avoid burn-out and provide the best possible service to your customers.

Learning more about the candidate’s hobbies will give you some insight into their view on maintaining a balanced life. It will also help you determine whether the candidate will be able to handle the busy restaurant life on top of their everyday life.

restaurant job interview

6. What Was Your Favorite Customer Service Experience?

You've asked the candidate about customer conflict, but what about positive experiences? Asking about their favorite customer service experience will accomplish a few things:

  • It will help you gauge the candidate’s level of enthusiasm.

  • It will give you some insight into what the candidate views as great service.

Pay attention to how the question is answered. Are they excited or happy when telling the story? Do they seem genuine? The story itself will help you truly understand what hospitality means to them.

7. What is Your Greatest Strength?

This is a common restaurant interview question, and the answer will give you an idea of the candidate’s self-confidence.

The strengths should be related to the restaurant industry. Ideally, restaurant employees should be great with people, calm under pressure, outgoing and focused. If the interviewee mentions irrelevant strengths, like computer skills, they may not be a good fit for your restaurant.

8. What is Your Greatest Weakness?

Many hiring managers will ask this question during restaurant job interviews. It's not necessarily the answer that’s most important, but how the person answers the question.

Do you feel that the person is being honest? Is there any mention of trying to improve that weakness?

You probably don’t want to hire someone who claims that he has a bad temper or doesn’t like dealing with conflict. These are two qualities that don’t bode well in the restaurant industry.

restaurant staff hiring

9. What Do You Know About Our Restaurant?

This is another question that will give you some insight into the candidate’s motivation and knowledge of your business.

If the person doesn’t have an answer, it may mean that he or she applied on a whim. But if the person does have an answer, it means that he or she did some research before coming in or has first-hand knowledge of your restaurant.

What’s the ideal answer to this question?

  • I’ve been coming here for years. I love the food and atmosphere, and I’d love to be a part of it.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all of your restaurant’s staff was as enthusiastic as this?

10. What Do You Like Most About Working in Hospitality?

Asking this question will give you an idea of the person’s experience in the restaurant business. This question may be particularly important when hiring servers. Ideally, you want someone who understands the ins-and-outs of serving customers.

Does it seem like the candidate is only in it for a paycheck, or is there a genuine interest in working at your restaurant? Some people love serving or working in a restaurant atmosphere. But it can be a tough industry, and it’s not a job for everyone.

The person’s response to this question will give you a sense of their motivation and who they are as a person.