Not every interview will be conducted in an air-conditioned office. Not every manager wears shirt and tie. And not every recruitment process has a clear criteria for choosing the best candidate for the job. Restaurant interviews are often unconventional, and the same is true about the questions you may face.

It is not uncommon to sit with the restaurant owner at a table, while other people are eating their lunch next to you. They are enjoying the food, while you are sweating in your shirt, trying to get a job in the restaurant. Of course this isn’t going to happen in some snobbish place, where people dine in a tuxedo and pay $200 for a dinner. But more likely than not, you aren’t going to interview in such sort of a restaurant.

What’s more, interviews at restaurants, and at other dining or catering facilities, are typically led by people without professional background in HR or interviewing. These people won’t use psychometric testing, or any other special form of interviewing, and they also won’t spend two days considering your job application.

If they like you as a person, if they feel your motivation and interest, and if you have at least some experience (or convince them that you do not need previous experience), they will hire you for the position in a restaurant. Your goal is to make that happen. Let’s have a look at the questions you may face.

Job interview in a restaurant. The owner of the place talks to a young lady who tries to get a job of a waitress.

Why do you want to work as a waiter (bartender, barista, cook, etc)?

Say that you enjoy that type of job, the interactions with people, the adrenaline of a busy kitchen, the buzz of a cozy restaurant. Say that you have passion for hospitality sector, and believe that the job is a great fit for your strengths and your personality.

Another alternative is referring to your experience in the field. Maybe you had the same job before and would love to continue in the field, benefiting from your existing experience, instead of starting from scratch in some other field of business.


Why do you want to work here, and not in another place?

This is your chance to praise them for what they do in the restaurant. Does their food stand out? Do they prepare any specialties, dishes that are hard to get in any other place around the town? Are you taken aback by the atmosphere of the place? Find something you can praise, and give them credit for it.

Another alternative is referring to the shift patterns, employee benefits, or location of the restaurant–something that makes it a convenient choice for you, or one you can handle, bearing in mind your existing duties (at school, in your family, and so on).


How long do you want to stay here?

Nobody wants to hire people every other month, and restaurants tend to struggle with employee fluctuation. Tell them that you do not have any plans of leaving the city, and are looking for a steady occupation, a job you’d have for many months to come.

Whether you really stay or not is another thing, of course. Many jobs in restaurants look better advertised than they really are, and nobody can blame you for leaving the place after a week or a month with them. While interviewing for the job, however, you should tell them what they want to hear from you…


Would you mind working on Sundays? Would you mind working twelve hours a day?

Check the opening hours of the place. Do they serve food on Sunday? Are they open late in the evening? Show some flexibility and willingness to sacrifice something for your profession.

Sure, many restaurants make the most money on weekends–that’s when people prefer to eat out, instead of cooking at home. Ensure the restaurant manager that you are aware of such trends, and understand when the place is likely to be most busy…


How do you imagine a typical day in work at our place?

You should show them that you expect to work hard, and be busy from morning to evening. Even if you apply for a position of a waitress, you should say that you are ready to help the cooks, or other staff members, anytime you’ll have nothing better to do, for example when there are no customers to serve.

Obviously what exactly you will do depends mostly on the job you want to get in the restaurant, and the organization of the place. In places that aren’t particularly busy with guests, one person often takes care of everything–from cleaning the place to preparing the food and dealing with guests. Think about their restaurant–how big it is, how many people work there, and so on. It should help you to come up with a good answer to this question.


Other questions you may face in your restaurant job interview

  • How would you deal with an angry customer?
  • Are there any guests you would prefer not to serve as a waitress?
  • What are your strength and weaknesses?
  • What is your opinion on sharing tips? Are you okay with that?
  • How would you describe an ideal colleague, or an ideal boss?
  • How would your former colleagues describe you?
  • Do you have experience with “this and that”? (food preparation techniques, local cuisine, special ingredients, cash handling system, etc.)
  • Why should we hire you?
  • Tell us about a time when you felt overwhelmed with work.
  • Describe a crisis of motivation you faced in one of your former jobs. How did you get over it?
  • Tell us one thing about yourself you wouldn’t want us to know.


Enthusiasm will take you a long way in this interview

Let’s face it–you do not need any special experience or education in most restaurants. You will learn how to handle the job, directly on the job. What can set you apart from other candidates, however, is the enthusiasm you show for the job.

Stay humble, ask them a lot of questions about the place, and what they try to achieve in the restaurant. Listen carefully to what they have to say. Visit the place and dine there before the start of your interview–so you have something to talk about, something to compliment once you meet them on the big day. That’s the way to succeed in this unconventional interview…

May also interest you:

* You can also download the list of questions in a one page long PDF, and practice your interview answers anytime later, even offline:

restaurant interview questions, PDF
Matthew Chulaw
Latest posts by Matthew Chulaw (see all)