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Best Interview Questions for Restaurant Employees

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Jenny Day
Top Restaurant interview questions
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Staffing your restaurant with a great team is critical to success. Your individual hiring decisions define your company culture over the long term, impacting both customer experience and employee retention.

Short-term restaurant hiring challenges, like filling open roles because you’re understaffed, may seem like the most urgent day-to-day priority.  However, for the overall health of your restaurant business, it pays to put energy and resources into your long-term hiring and retention strategy as well.

Conducting job interviews can be tricky, especially in this tight job market we are currently experiencing in the restaurant industry. Knowing how to interview restaurant staff can help you find better talent. Read on for insightful interviewing do’s and don’ts.

Common Restaurant Job Interview Questions and Answers

Restaurant jobs generally require a combination of customer service and technical skills. Below are questions to ask potential candidates to find out what hard skills and soft skills they have to offer, plus illegal interview questions to avoid.

You might find these additional resources helpful to get the talent you require for your restaurant:

Top 5 Restaurant Interview Questions

Once you get past the basics, asking behavioral interview questions lets you learn how a person may react in a certain situation, based on how they handled similar situations in the past. Dig a little deeper by asking these types of questions:

Tell me about yourself.

This is a great icebreaker. The candidate is most likely nervous and will start to relax once they begin talking about themselves. Try to find out what they do when they aren’t working and see if there is a good work/life balance.

Tell me about your restaurant experience. 

This answer can help you judge their level of excitement about the industry. Is this a person who is passionate, or just going through the motions for a paycheck?

What are your expectations of this job? 

Make sure that their expectation is in line with what your current employees experience.  If the candidate has unrealistic expectations, you will both be unhappy.

What is your availability? 

It is important that your needs and their availability match.

Why do you want to work here? 

You want someone who has done some research on your concept and feels like they would be a good addition to your team.

Once you get past the basics, asking behavioral interview questions lets you learn how a person may react in a certain situation, based on how they handled similar situations in the past. Dig a little deeper by asking these types of questions:

Why did you choose the restaurant industry? 

Restaurant people are passionate.  We love the constant movement, challenge, and surprises each day brings. The flexible schedule and pay are great, but real restaurant people see beyond that, and enjoy the ups and downs of serving others.

What type(s) of people do you find difficult to work with? 

This answer helps you find out who this person is, and how they feel about others. Most restaurants try to run with lean staffing and depend on teamwork to successfully get through a shift, so an ideal candidate is a “people person” and can work well with everyone.

What is the most difficult situation you have dealt with at your previous employer and how did you handle it? 

Asking this question will provide insight into what the candidate considers a difficult situation, and how they would handle it.

Give me an example of how you have turned around a bad guest experience? 

The answer to this question should reflect the candidate’s conflict resolution skills and quick thinking, rather than speaking of an unruly customer in a disrespectful manner.

How have you dealt with customer complaints in the past? 

This answer can be similar to the one above. This is just meant to reaffirm that the candidate is capable of handling tough customers.

How do you handle being in the weeds? 

This answer will let you know how the candidate handles pressure.  You want someone who sees being in the weeds as a challenge to overcome, as well as someone who is not afraid to ask teammates for help when they need it.

According to United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), or national origin, or on an individual with a disability or class of individuals with disabilities, if the polices or practices at issue are not job-related and necessary to the operation of the business.

Below are samples of interview questions that are off-limits:

Questions regarding age, such as:

  • How old are you?
  • When were you born?
  • What year did you graduate from college?

Questions regarding a person’s religious beliefs, observances, or practices, such as:

  • Will you need time off for religious holidays?
  • What is your religion?
  • What church do you attend?

Questions regarding disabilities, such as:

  • Do you have any mental or physical disabilities?
  • Do you take any prescription medications?
  • Have you ever been treated for mental health problems?

Questions regarding family status, such as:

  • How many children do you have?
  • What kind of childcare arrangements do you have in place?
  • Are you planning to expand your family?

Questions regarding race or ethnicity, such as:

  • What is your nationality?
  • Where were you born?
  • What language does your family speak at home?

Questions regarding a candidate’s past, current, or future military membership or service, such as:

  • How often are you deployed for Navy Reserve training?
  • Will you be deployed any time soon?
  • What type of discharge did you receive from the Marines?


Loyal, long-term employees are more effective in their jobs and increase the efficient operation of your restaurant business. The longer employees stay at your restaurant, the more likely they are to be skilled and successful at their jobs and support the values of your restaurant culture.  Use these simple tips if you’re looking to hire long-term employees for your restaurant business.

Restaurant365 Payroll + Hire enables you to cast a wider net and filter for the best employees faster with an easy-to-use applicant tracking system (ATS) built so you can hire the right candidates. R365 Payroll + HR makes it easy for you to hire, onboard, pay, and support your workforce. Schedule a free demo.