If you’re looking for common restaurant interview questions to practice, you’re in the right place…
Restaurant jobs are competitive and difficult to land… And there are some tough questions you’ll be asked in restaurant interviews that you need to be ready for.
So in this article, I’m going to walk you through:
- The top 11 restaurant interview questions and answers for servers, managers, and more
- Questions to ask them in the interview
- Mistakes to avoid
- Additional preparation steps to give you an unfair advantage!
(And this all comes from direct experience. Not only have I worked as a Recruiter for years, but before that, I worked as a server in a restaurant. And I got hired without ANY prior experience because of the interview answers I gave).
Top 11 Restaurant Job Interview Questions
1. Do you have any previous restaurant experience?
Before I was a recruiter, I got hired for a summer job as a waiter without ANY prior experience. So it is possible to land a job at a restaurant without past experience.
You need to answer this question the right way, though. I got hired with a group of four other people, but I was the only one who was hired as a waiter immediately (instead of having clear tables or carry food from the kitchen to the tables).
And I was the ONE candidate from our group to get hired as a server because of how I answered this interview question.
If you’ve never worked in a restaurant, don’t lie. The key is to admit that you don’t have the exact thing they’re asking for, but then talk about whatever you HAVE done that’s most similar.
Here’s a sample answer showing how to respond (based on the response that got me my first restaurant job):
No, I haven’t worked in a restaurant before, but I’ve been working in Customer Service at Whole Foods for two years and was promoted from cashier to supervisor because of my excellent customer service skills. So I’m very comfortable interacting with customers and working in a fast-paced environment where you need to work quickly and without mistakes.
Just point out whatever you’ve done that’s most relevant. What strengths have you learned elsewhere that you can bring to the role? It’s not always easy to find something, but do your best.
Never just say, “No” and stop. That’s not going to help you get the job as a candidate without experience.
And of course, if you do have previous industry experience, then just point that out!
For example, you could say:
“Yes, I do. In fact, in my last job, I did ___ and ___, so I’m confident I can step into your position and succeed immediately here, too.”
This is also one of the most common restaurant manager interview questions, so make sure you brush up on your prior experience and be ready to describe everything you’ve done in the industry up to this point if you’re interviewing for a restaurant manager or supervisor role!
2. Why do you want to work in the restaurant industry?
If you haven’t ever worked in a restaurant before, the hiring manager is going to ask why you want this type of position and why you chose to apply. So be ready to answer, and don’t just say you heard you can earn a lot of money – try to come up with another reason, too.
“I enjoy interacting with people, and I’ve enjoyed coming to this restaurant with my family while growing up, so I thought it’d be a great part-time job to support myself while I’m studying at college. I also believe it will help me build valuable skills that will transfer into future jobs.”
And if you’ve already held restaurant jobs and are applying for yet another, be prepared to talk about why you enjoy this type of work and why you’re interested in staying in this industry.
3. Tell me about a time you had to work under a lot of pressure. How did you handle it?
Whether you’re interacting with guests as a part of your job, or working in the “back of house” as a chef, etc., you’re going to be under deadlines and schedules.
The restaurant business always involves some stress, from entry-level employees up to senior management, so be ready for a few interview questions about how you handle it, whether you’re okay with it, etc.
Try to prepare a specific example of a time you worked through pressure and got a great result in a previous job. That way, you’ll be ready for this type of question.
4. Do you prefer to work alone or as part of a team?
Most restaurant jobs involve teamwork, so I’d recommend saying that you’re a good team player and that you enjoy teamwork when answering this question. That’s what they want in their employees.
It’s also possible to give a response that demonstrates you’re comfortable working in either type of environment – alone or as part of a group. So that’s another good option. Here’s how that would sound…
“I love working as part of a team, but I’m also comfortable working alone without close supervision. In my last job, I worked on a team of 15 customer service staff. We had to cooperate and coordinate closely, but at times, I was also on my own and had to be self-reliant.”
Further reading: Answers to “How would you describe your work style?”
5. How did you hear about this position?
Be straightforward and direct when explaining how you heard about the job opening. 99% of the time, honesty is the best policy here.
It’s perfectly fine to say you found out about the job online, on their website, from a friend or family member, from a coworker at your previous job, etc.
6. Have you eaten at our restaurant before?
I’d recommend telling the truth with this question, too. Don’t feel pressure to lie and say, “yes” if you haven’t eaten there before! Lies lead to more lies, and they’ll likely ask follow-up questions like, “What’s your favorite dish?”
The fact that you haven’t eaten at a restaurant won’t necessarily cost you the job, but getting caught lying will.
One of the best tips I can give is: Avoid lying if you can possibly do so. This will help you stay confident and anxiety-free.
If you’re concerned about the fact you’ve never eaten in the restaurant and want to be able to say you have, just go have lunch a few days before your interview! Order something and try the food. That way, you’ll have something to talk about if the hiring manager asks this in the interview.
7. Tell me about a time you had to deal with an angry customer or client. How did you resolve the issue?
In any customer service job interview (including restaurant job interviews), they’re going to want to make sure you’re comfortable dealing with an angry customer.
And even if you’ve never held this type of job before, they might ask, “how would you deal with an angry customer?”
In your answer, you should explain that you always seek to show the customer you understand their frustration, and then you take action to resolve their issue. You never blame the customer (even if they really are wrong, or just unreasonable), and you never want to argue and make the situation worse.
If you take this approach in your interview, you’ll be more likely to get hired for restaurant jobs and other food/service positions.
8. What are your career goals?
This is another question where I recommend being honest. Restaurants hire all sorts of candidates – from full-time professionals in the industry to students and other part-time workers.
Be honest when answering “what are your career your career goals?” and let the management team figure out the best role to fit into your goals and scheduling needs.
If you do have a goal beyond working in a restaurant, try to talk about how this job will interest you and help you build valuable skills. That way, they’ll know you’re going to be motivated and work hard.
For example, you could say:
“I’m just beginning college, and I’m going to be studying Business and Marketing. My long-term goal is to get a job in a marketing agency. This job interested me because it will help me build related skills like customer service, communication, and the ability to work well in a fast-paced environment. Those are all things I want to learn more and become great at.”
This type of interview answer shows that you’ll be a good worker and stay motivated, even if working in a restaurant isn’t your long-term goal. That’s extremely important to show as a candidate.
9. Tell me about a conflict you’ve had at work and how you handled it.
Along with making sure you can stay calm when serving angry customers/guests, the hiring manager will want to make sure that the candidate they hire can work well as part of the internal team.
Try to show that you try to stay calm in a disagreement with coworkers, and always try to understand their perspective and de-escalate the situation instead of making it worse. Show that you don’t have an ego and aren’t concerned with being “right”, but rather that you have a team-first approach and just want the restaurant or business to do well.
Further reading: Answers to “How do you handle conflict?”
10. What questions do you have for us?
Always prepare a few questions for the interview that you plan on asking, too. Companies like to hire candidates who come prepared with thoughtful questions about the job and organization.
You can ask about what the training will look like… what the first month on the job typically looks like… the biggest challenges new people face… how your performance will be measured, and more.
If you want more questions to ask in an interview, this list has 105 good questions.
11. How much are you looking to earn?
Finally, they may ask about your desired salary. In a first interview, you don’t know very much about the job or what’s required of you, so I’d recommend not giving a direct answer or exact number for your salary expectations.
Instead, tell them that you’re focused on learning about the job and seeing if it’s a good fit, and once you’ve done this, you’re happy to consider an offer that they feel is fair.
Finish by explaining that you really don’t have a specific salary in mind yet.
Then re-focus the conversation back on the position. Ask if you can continue discussing the role to see if it’s a good fit.
Adjust Your Interview Preparation for “Back of House” vs. “Front of House”
We looked at the most common restaurant interview questions above, but there’s more you should do to prepare based on the specific position you’ve applied for…
Try to think about which type of role you’re interviewing for and customize your preparation for that.
For example, if you’ll be working as a server, you might hear more restaurant interview questions like, “What does good customer service mean to you?” or “What do you think is most important to ensure guests have a good experience here?”
However, if you’re interviewing for a “back of house” position, you’re not going to hear questions like that.
Instead, you’ll be asked more restaurant interview questions about how you work as part of a team and how you get along with coworkers. Or they may ask more questions designed to find out whether you’re reliable, whether you’ll be motivated to do the job, etc. (for example, “What would your last boss say about you?”, “Why do you want this job?” etc.).
So just keep that in mind as you prepare!
And FYI – If you haven’t worked in a restaurant before, “front of house” means you’re interacting with customers… you’re the host at the front door, you’re a waiter, etc. And “back of house” means non-customer-facing positions like chef, cook, etc.
Manager Candidates Should Expect Further Management-Related Questions
If you’re already in the industry and interviewing for a higher-level position, you can expect many questions about leadership and management, too. For example, restaurant manager interview questions will also include the following:
- “How would you describe your leadership style?”
- “Why do you feel you’re ready to lead people?” (the company will ask this if this is going to be your first restaurant manager job)
- “How would you handle an employee who wasn’t performing well at work?”
- “What do you feel are the most important priorities and goals of a restaurant manager?”
So study the common restaurant interview questions from the top section of this article, but also prepare further based on the specific level and type of role you’re interviewing for. That will get you the best results and the most job offers from your restaurant job interviews.