10 Great Questions to Ask Candidates in a Restaurant Job Interview

Alex Kilpatrick | October 23, 2013

Between the pay scale and fluctuating hours, the turnover rate at restaurants can be pretty high. According to a study published in Nation’s Restaurant News, turnover in casual dining restaurants hovers around 44 percent. At fast food restaurants, turnover averages are as high as 50 percent.

With a revolving door of employees, there’s no way around it. As manager, you’ll be interviewing candidates almost constantly. Since you’ll be repeating this process again and again, it’s important to optimize the interview to get the most out of your time and find the right person. We turned to two industry experts for restaurant job interview tips. David Scott Peters is a restaurant coach and the founder of TheRestaurantExpert.com, and Matt Thompson is a restaurant staffing consultant and founder of ShiftNote, an employee scheduling and communication software.

When we asked them for advice on hiring and interviewing for restaurant positions, they both agreed that it’s important to look for passion and personality rather than skill.

“You can train anyone how to work in a restaurant, but you can’t train them to be friendly, which is essential for a successful restaurant,” Peters says.

Thompson seconded that idea. “I can teach someone how to sell, serve and work a POS system, but I cannot teach someone how to be happy or passionate about working,” he says.

So how can you evaluate a candidate’s passion and personality? Peters and Thompson each recommended five of their favorite restaurant interview questions for the task.

 

Peters’ Top 5 Restaurant Interview Questions

  1. Who was your best boss ever, and why? Who was the worst, and looking back, what could you have done to make that relationship better?
  2. How do you think that “best boss” would describe you? What about the worst boss?
  3. What do you think was your single greatest achievement on the job? What was your worst failure?
  4. What sort of work environment do you prefer? What brings out your best performance?
  5. How do you handle conflict? Can you give me an example of how you handled a workplace conflict in the past?

 

Thompson’s Top 5 Restaurant Interview Questions

  1. Why do you want to work here?
  2. What is your favorite food or meal? Sell that meal to me.
  3. When you are not working, what are some of your favorite activities, hobbies or projects?
  4. Not all people who eat in this restaurant come in happy. They may have had a horrible day, or something stressful just happened before they came in to the restaurant. If you had a table with a “grumpy” person, how would you interact with this person differently compared to someone who is obviously happy?
  5. Give me an example of a time you went above and beyond for someone to exceed their expectations of you.

 

Which questions do you use to get to know a restaurant job candidate’s personality? Do you agree that passion and personality make for a great restaurant employee, or do you look for a specific skill set?

About The Author

Alex Kilpatrick is the Marketing Communications Manager at interviewstream and has been with the company since 2018. In her free time, she enjoys running, reading, traveling and spending time outdoors.

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