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Interviewing for a restaurant job? Whether the opening is for a server, bartender, or host/hostess position, working in the front of house (FOH) in a restaurant requires a mix of great customer service, flexibility, attention to detail, and patience.

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We've prepared a breakdown of possible interview questions you might get asked when considered for one of these positions.

Company & Culture

It's important to know the environment you might be working in.  A good way to learn about a restaurant you want to work at is to dine there.  Take note of how their employees present themselves, who their clientele is, and what the atmosphere is like.  Be prepared to answer questions such as:

  • Have you dined at our establishment before? And what has your experience been?
  • What made you want to work in the restaurant industry?
  • Do you have any food allergies? (Many people don't think about this, but if you have a serious food allergy, you might want to reconsider a restaurant position, or outline your strategy to address it.)
  • What made you apply here compared to other restaurants?

Environment & Flexibility

The speed in a restaurant can go from 0 to 60 and back again in a matter of minutes and priorities often change suddenly throughout the day.  One minute your head could be spinning with orders and requests and the next you're passing the time watching the clock tick by.  Are you okay with extremes in your work schedule and know how it can affect you?  Think about it, and prepare some examples, before you might be asked to answer questions like the following:

  • How did you fill downtime at your last job?
  • If you are asked to quickly do another task, how does that affect your mood?
  • Do you consider yourself a patient person?
  • Are you comfortable working in a fast paced, demanding environment?
  • How do you address sudden change, such as the kitchen running out of a menu item, a disruption in the dining room that requires wait times to double, or being asked to chip in on tasks outside your responsibility?

Restaurants are definitely a team environment.  Even if you think you're a solo act, you can't juggle everything yourself.  Everyone pitches in where needed, and there are people behind the scenes making all of the action happen.  Working well with others and building rapport is important in maintaining good relationships to deliver excellent service to your guests.  These next questions gauge your ability and comfort in working in a team oriented atmosphere:

  • How do you feel about sharing tips/tip sharing?
  • How do you make seamless transitions on shift changes?
  • Describe a recent problem you had with one of your manager's decisions. How did you handle it?
  • How have you responded in the past when you found another employee was stealing?
  • How do you handle situations that could cause you to be tardy or absent?
  • How have you responded in the past when your replacement calls in sick or doesn't show up and you have to stay late?

Attention to Detail

Aside from the physical burdens of being on your feet most of the day, carrying heavy trays, and interacting with guests and co-workers, there is a great amount of detail involved in working in a restaurant.  Memorizing menus and daily specials, understanding and perfectly executing customer orders and requests, maintaining accuracy in monetary exchanges, and even using computer systems effectively to input orders are just a few of the things people new to the restaurant industry forget to consider.  Ask yourself these questions to prepare for what may be required in the position you are applying for:

  • Do you have any mnemonic tools you use to remember orders?
  • Would you say you have a good memory? Why is that skill important to the job you're applying for?
  • Describe a time when attention to detail was critical to your work.  How did you ensure the quality of your work?
  • Are you comfortable maintaining your own 'bank' of cash throughout your shift?
  • Tell me about the last computer software you learned and how quickly you adapted to using it?

Customer Service

Providing excellent customer service is one of, if not the biggest success factor in a front of house restaurant job.  You are essentially the face of the company and have to embody the restaurant's culture as well as help define the customer experience, making sure guests leave wanting to come back.  Answer the following interview questions to know if you're ready to handle some of the basic responsibilities required to ensure a high quality of service:

  • Give an example of when you did something without being asked.
  • Tell me about your most frustrating experience as a __________ (job title). What did you do to change the situation?
  • Are there any people you refuse to serve?
  • How would you deal with a demanding customer?
  • How do you feel about a customer that doesn’t leave a big tip?
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