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September 3, 2019 Straight Up Advice: What are Your Best Interview Questions for Hiring Restaurant Staff?

restaurant interview questions

It’s not fair, is it? You only get about an hour to interview a potential employee; someone who could stick around for years.

That’s why it’s so important to master the art of asking effective restaurant interview questions. You need to maximize every minute you have that candidate in front of you.

To help you out, we asked 3 owners and managers for their best restaurant interview questions along with smart hiring tips. Here’s what they said…

“Hire up. Hire people who are smarter than you.” -Brent Scott, owner of Scooter’s Restaurant in Valemount, British Columbia

This is no time for a superiority complex. Brent’s advice is spot on. Make your job a little easier by seeking out candidates that can teach you a thing or two!

For example, if you’re hiring for a management position, ask restaurant interview questions that pertain to the candidate’s willingness to bring new ideas to the table.

  • Tell me about a time when you put together a plan to solve a tough challenge.
  • How would you suggest our restaurant gets in on the delivery craze?

Hiring a new manager is also a great opportunity to up your game when it comes to the latest restaurant technology and trends. Try asking these restaurant interview questions:

  • What 3 types of restaurant technology have the most potential to transform our business?
  • What are 3 restaurant or leadership blogs, publications, or podcasts that you follow?

“Never hire anyone without doing proper reference checks.” Brent Scott

Brent shared even more advice beyond restaurant interview questions. He emphasized the importance of doing reference checks.

Experts recommend requesting at least 3 previous employer references, and always getting the business name of the employer and looking up the phone number yourself. Too often, unsavory job candidates will give you a friend’s phone number who will provide a glowing (and fake) recommendation.

After you’ve asked your final restaurant interview question, always end the talk with a request for those references. However, you cannot ask someone if they have a criminal record. Review these commonly asked – but highly illegal – restaurant interview questions before asking anything!

The Golden Book of
Upselling Secrets

The ultimate guide for owners & managers.

“For me, candidates must have the 3 C’s: Competence, character, and chemistry.” -Brent Scott

Brent explained that above all, he bases his hiring decisions on the 3 C’s. To see how your candidate measures up according to the 3 C’s, turn to these restaurant interview questions (tailored to a potential server).

Competence

  • How would you handle a table who is camping out?
  • What would you do if the kitchen was behind, and your customers were complaining about the wait?

Character

  • If you suspected a colleague of stealing, what would you do?
  • You notice another server is struggling with all their tables, what would you do?

Chemistry

When it comes to chemistry, even the very best restaurant interview questions aren’t much help. Chemistry often involves a gut feeling that the person will fit in with you, your restaurant’s culture, and your team. But beware! The latest research suggests that your gut instinct isn’t always right. So take that extra step of checking references.

“I have anyone interviewing for a waitstaff position sell me the salt and pepper shakers on the table, not the salt or pepper…the actual shakers. I give them 30 seconds…then let them start selling. If they can do that with confidence then I proceed with further restaurant interview questions.” -Brian Cooper, Chef for a Restaurant in Richmond, Virginia

Talk about shaking up your list of restaurant interview questions! Brian’s request for a potential server to sell to him on the spot is fantastic advice.

First, it will reveal how your possible new hire will handle the inevitable pressure that comes with working in the bar and restaurant business. Second, you’ll find out how persuasive your server is – very quickly. Can they sell you without being pushy? Do they maintain eye contact and a friendly smile?

If you think about it, your servers are the “face” of your business, and also responsible for generating revenue. You want strong sellers on your team, and this creative restaurant interview question is one way to test them.

By the way, it’s a great idea to train your time using these 26 upselling tactics. Although if they convinced you to “buy” your own salt and pepper shakers, they probably don’t need much training…

“We have a ROCKSTAR staff – minimal drama, awesome team work, and they all have a slew of regular customers who adore them. I fully attribute this to taking our time in the hiring process and only hiring people I’d want to have a beer with.

Basically, if I don’t want to have a beer and share stories with you, you’re not going to provide the kind of experience I want for my customers.” – Kayleigh Lohse, owner and founder of Presidential Brewing Co. in Portage, Michigan

Last but not least, we heard from Kayleigh who is fiercely proud of the team she has cultivated through her unique hiring process. She generously shared 4 of her favorite brewery, bar, and restaurant interview questions with us…

Kayleigh’s #1 Restaurant Interview Question: Why us?

“This tells me if they’ve done any amount of research about us, our brand, our mission, and our story. The ones I hire are the ones who took the time to explore our website and social media sites, and connect with who we are and what we’re doing.”

“Why us, instead of the other 15 breweries in town or the hundreds of restaurants and bars around? I want people on my team who are passionate about what we’re doing here. This brewery and restaurant interview question tells me if they’re excited and bought in to our specific mission – or if they’re just looking for a job and don’t really care where.”

Kayleigh’s #2 Restaurant Interview Question: What’s your most embarrassing story?

“I just love listening to people answer this! I like to ask it early in the process, because it breaks down the wall a bit and relaxes them – and we get to laugh together. If I can’t laugh with you, you’re never going to thrive in our environment.”

Kayleigh’s #3 Restaurant Interview Question: What’s your go-to karaoke song?

This always catches people off guard, so I love this brewery and restaurant interview question. I’ve gotten some really “off the wall answers too, which is a riot.”

Kayleigh’s #4 Restaurant Interview Question: If you could give us – the owners and managers – one piece of advice, what would it be?

“This gives me some insight into things they’ve loved or hated about past work experiences, and gives me a chance to see what’s important to them as an employee. Spoiler alert…9 times out of 10, the answer to this brewery and restaurant interview question is this: give your employees a voice, and actually listen.”

“Our culture is 100% about relationships and being authentic with each other and our customers, so we start our restaurant interview questions off that way. Even our job descriptions are a bit off the wall, but I crafted them that way on purpose. I wanted to attract people who were hard-working and team-oriented, but also don’t take themselves too seriously. My primary criteria for servers and bartenders is personality. To me, the best brewery, bar, and restaurant interview questions tell me exactly what I need to know.”

Now that you’re inspired with creative, insightful restaurant interview questions, the next step is to prepare your own list of 15-20 questions for each role in your business. That way, when you have a vacancy, you won’t be scrambling. You’ll be ready to hire your next best employee!

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